July 2, 2008

Just a few weeks ago I was in a car with Tee Bosustow, on the way to an interview for his Toon In podcast. We kicked around a few thoughts on different animated productions, and when I mentioned that I really liked Persepolis, he said he wasn't as enthusiastic about the film.

"What?!?" I said. "Let me out of the car right now. You know what? Don't even bother stopping. Just slow down and let me jump out."

Okay, so maybe that's not exactly how it went down. For that matter, I don't really remember why he didn't like it as much as I did. But at the time his reasoning struck me enough that I recently re-read the comics in anticipation of the DVD release, which I watched not too long ago, along with all the extras. Here are some of the impressions I came away with:

It's always kind of funny when you mistakenly get the DVD with Spanish menus.

Catherine Deneuve is at the Persepolis press conference at Cannes and doesn't get asked a question? How is that possible?

I suspect that Iggy Pop is incapable of sitting in one place for too long without taking his shirt off.

Finally, upon rewatching I think that Persepolis is as much a tribute to Marjane Satrapi's grandmother as it is an autobiography. Never mind the bittersweet ending; from the moment the young Marjane opens her mouth to question authority in school, she's negotiating the principles of self-awareness and honesty to oneself that her grandmother taught her against the realities of the world around her. Whether she's telling off members of the Guardians of the Revolution or standing up to French bigots, she's channelling her grandmother; and guess who's the person she goes to whenever she has serious problems, and the first person to bite her head off if that's what she needs?

Because of the story's geographic and spiritual location in Iran and the timing of the movie's release, some might consider Persepolis political. Because of the strength and intelligence exhibited by Marjane, her mother and her grandmother, some might consider it feminist. After watching the extras, I don't think Satrapi would agree with either sentiment. Persepolis is the story of ordinary-yet-extraordinary people—we all know folks who fit in that category—in trying circumstances, and the legacy that she carries.

Yeah, I'm still on the Persepolis bandwagon.

Where to Get It
Buy Persepolis books and DVDs from Amazon.com

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Whether Persepolis is considered a feminist text or not by Satrapi or others, one cannot the contest the relevance of the common feminist assertion "the personal is political" in this context.
Very true. Maybe Satrapi's own comment is the most accurate: it's not a polemic.

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