Persepolis (2007)

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Released 3-Mar-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-The Reader, The Wrestler
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 93:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Vincent Paronnaud
Marjane Satrapi
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Chiara Mastroianni
Catherine Deneuve
Danielle Darrieux
Simon Abkarian
Gabrielle Lopes Benites
François Jerosme
Sophie Arthuys
Jean-François Gallotte
Arié Elmaleh
Mathias Mlekuz
Case ?
RPI ? Music Olivier Bernet
Stéphane Roche
Marisa Musy


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    With the proliferation of violent, nihilistic graphic novel adaptations which have splattered across our screens in the last few years ( Sin City, 30 Days of Night,300, Watchmen) it is gratifying to see a film of a graphic novel that relies on subtlety and intelligent story-telling to depict a moving and very real story. Make no mistake, Persepolis is every bit as sad, and often as serious, as its gory brethren but this remains a very human tale and one which will linger long in the memory.

Persepolis is a 2007 film adaptation by Marjane Satrapi of her own graphic novel (actually a pair of novels). It was co-written and directed by artist Vincent Paronnaud. It received a nomination for Best Animated film at last years Oscars losing out to Ratatouille. It was also the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and nominated for the Palme d'Or. Interestingly, it was nominated for the Golden Globes in the Best Foreign Language film category.

Persepolis details the early life of the creator in her homeland Iran and abroad, where she was sent to escape the horrors of war and politics. As the story begins the adult Marjane is waiting in Paris's Orly Airport for a flight home to Iran. This part of the film is in colour. The rest is in black and white using traditional and more experimental 2D animation.

Sitting at the airport she recalls her early life as the daughter of middle class Communist parents (Catherine Deneuve and Simon Abkarian). They are staunch opponents of the Shah of Iran despite the family having a connection to royalty. They are firm in their belief of a Marxist revolution to create a democracy in troubled Iran. Marji the kid can't help but be swept up in their ideals.

Of course, when the revolution comes and the Shah is exiled the new regime proves every bit as cruel and dictatorial as it's predecessor. Instead of the democratic state for which the idealists fought the Ayatollah introduced sharia law and relentless crackdowns on dissidents and intellectuals. As always those who fan the flames of revolution are the first to get disposed of when the change comes.

As the Iraq/Iran War begins and even more crackdowns ensue.

Throughout this Marji tries to keep her free thinking and rebellious nature well honed. Wearing a punk jacket with her habib and buying black market Iron Maiden tapes draws her into inevitable conflict with the thought police. Unable to bear it any longer,Marji is sent by her parents to Vienna as a child and drifts from home to home as she has difficulty fitting in. Her greatest connection is with the discontented but it isn't too long before she realises that they experience "the struggles" at a safe distance never having actually felt the boot of repression upon them. She falls in love, out of love and spends time on the streets before returning to Iran as a university aged woman. All the time she loves her country but winces as her free thought is buttoned down by the state and the double standards between the acceptable male dress and behaviour and her obligations as a Muslim woman become intolerable.

If all this sounds unbearable to watch don't despair - the greatest skill of Marjane's story-telling is the ability to convey the sorrow and the pity without bombast. Although Marji rants and raves at the injustice of it all her parents are quietly optimistic of a better future without repression and disappearances. The script is perfectly poised and the voice-acting is superb. Chiara Mastroianni (the daughter of Marcello and Catherine Deneuve) gives a well phrased performance as Marjane (adult and university age) and special mention must go to Danielle Darrieux who, at 90, skillfully and tenderly plays Marji's grandmother, a woman who acts as Marji's moral compass.

The animation is rich and deep despite the apparent limitations of black and white and 2D animation. The images are in themselves works of art and at times the style changes to suit the mood of the section. One funny and pointed example is where the style of the characters shifts to shadow puppets where Marji's uncle explains the origin of the Shah.

At roughly 90 minutes the film never outstays its welcome and has moments of great lyricism as well as great sadness. The scene where Marji as a child farewells her family is directed so carefully that we feel genuine and deep emotion for these rough 2D sketches. Persepolis is one of the most harrowing yet humanistic depictions of repression. It is tense and dramatic, yet funny, in equal measures.

One caveat - again the unskippables rear their ugly heads. Not only is there an unskippable piracy warning at the beginning (does anyone seriously believe that pirates download Australian films?) but there are three unskippable trailers at the beginning of the film. These trailers can be fast forwarded but the DVD buying public should not have to put up with hitting the fast forward to watch their purchased movie. Poor form!

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

   Persepolis was animated on 35mm film and presented theatrically at 1.85:1, a ratio that has been preserved for for DVD release. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

There are no extras on the DVD to describe the filmmaking process. However, the official website for the film at http://www.sonyclassics.com/persepolis/ contains some excellent materials including a tour of the animation area where we can see the animators working on paper to create the images for the film. The result of this approach is an animated film quite unlike any other,. The simplicity of the images has the effect of intensifying the emotions such that subtle effects take on a real depth.

The transfer is free of any artefacts or other defects. Compression presents no issue. The blacks are inky when needed and the bursts of colour are strong and vivid. The shadows are well defined and the picture is sharp throughout.

There is no aliasing.

The subtitles are in easy to read yellow. Some short parts are not subtitled where we as the audience, and Marji as the character, do not understand what is being said. I noticed a couple of minor errors in the subtitles.

All in all a beautiful transfer of this film

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Persepolis comes with a French Dolby Digital 2.0 track running at 224 Kb/s.

In fact the sound generated from the front speakers is well balanced and quite powerful. Not only is the soundtrack occasionally crystal clear but the bass sounds are effectively delivered - the combination of Iron Maiden and cannon blasts caused my cat to jump up off the sofa and sprint out the room!

The dialogue is well rendered and easy to hear. I imagine it is easy to understand for French speakers. To the extent that audio sync was attempted it appeared on target.

The music by Oliver Bernet deserves special mention. The soundtrack contains a blend of the moving and the stirring and Bernet captures a mixture of French and Iranian music that gives it a slight "Eastern waltz" quality. A perfect accompaniment to he film.

The review copy for this film was supplied without packaging. A perusal of the back of the case at a local shop suggests that the film also has a French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. It is definitely not on the DVD I reviewed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Only the trailers!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is a bare bones DVD without a single extra - unless you count the annoying adverts. In Region 1 the film has been released with the following extras:

It appears that these are also included with the Blu-ray release. Unfortunately the Blu-ray has not been released here yet and the Region A is Region Locked.

Both versions have a 5.1 soundtrack. The Region 1 looks to be the best bet until the Blu-ray gets a local release.

Summary

Persepolis is a work of art that just happens to be a compelling and moving cinematic experience. It will probably appeal to those who like their art films first and foremost but it shouldn't be confined to a niche. Like the recent Waltz With Bashir it uses animation as a freeing force rather than a restriction.

The DVD transfer is impeccable. Shame about the extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, March 20, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
unskippables - penguin (there is no bio) REPLY POSTED
Trevor's comments on "unskippables" - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
Roadshow unskippables - penguin (there is no bio) REPLY POSTED