Persepolis (2007)

(In theaters, January 2008) As a confirmed fan of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel autobiography, I had a number of apprehensions about this adaptation, but most of them were swept away by the end of the movie: It works both as a film and as an adaptation, and the mixture of drama, history and humor is just as balanced on the screen than in the page despite significant differences in how the story is told. The basic idea remains the same: This is the story of a young Iranian girl who, growing up, sees the Islamic revolution first-hand, survives the Iraq/Iran war and is sent to Europe when her rebellion gets to be dangerous. (Not that the story ends there.) The film itself is a wonderful piece of stylistic charm, mixing high technology with Satrapi’s iconic black-and-white drawings for a result that is quite unlike anything else in theaters this year. The writing is sharp either in French spoken dialogs or English sub-titles (one of which, regrettably, obscures a visual gag late in the film.) Fans of the original graphic novels will be pleased to note that the film exists as its own entity, with scenes that couldn’t exist on the page; film fans will be even happier to discover the wealth of extra material that the graphic autobiography (now available in a single unitary edition) has to offer. There’s a lot of biting humor and a lot of material to reflect upon, and the everyday details of life under an oppressive regime are telling. Comic books in written form have long escaped the “just for kids” stigma, and Persepolis will help do the same for the cinematographic form. If we’re lucky, it will mean more animated adaptations of successful graphic novels.

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