"Persepolis" takes us on a daring, angst-filled journey of oppression using visually alluring black and white imagery that stuns the viewer with its stark, inky animation.
Persepolis (2007, Blu-ray)
Directors: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy
Writers: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
Features: * Commentary * Comparisons * Featurettes * Interviews
Chiara Mastroianni ... Marjane 'Marji' Satrapi, as a teenager and a woman (voice)
Catherine Deneuve ... Mrs. Satrapi - Marjane's mother (voice)
Danielle Darrieux ... Marjane's grandmother (voice)
Simon Abkarian ... Mr. Satrapi - Marjane's father (voice)
Gabrielle Lopes ... Marjane as a child (voice)
Persepolis Blu-ray Review
The animated film category at 2007’s Academy Awards was a tough one. There were only three films nominated though many more could have, and should have gotten a nod. Among the nominees were the Pixar film about a rat with a Chef’s keen eye ("Ratatouille") and a faux-documentary about a surfing penguin ("Surf’s Up"). The third film in this category wasn’t about a plucky, cute animal. It wasn’t a children’s story either. It shocked and stunned many as it wasn’t even a mainstream picture nor was it even in the English language. The film: "Persepolis."
Based on the graphic novel series of the same name, "Persepolis" follows a young Iranian girl, Majene, as she encounters the struggles and angst of growing up, while the world around her becomes entrenched in totalitarian dictatorship, idolatry and hatred.
Ostensibly, Marjane is not a likeable girl. She’s rough and brute and perhaps even spoiled to some extent. But her shallow rebellion quickly becomes a thunderous voice for which to shout the words "oppression." Raised by rich Iranian parents, Marjane grows up falling in love with western culture, but when she begins to be stripped of such free-flowing culture, she rebels. Her loving parents send her off to Europe, where they hope she will find peace, but after several years, the trip proves fruitless and she must return home. When Marjane arrives, she discovers that her home is far more deadly and oppressive than ever before.
While the focus is on Marjane’s rough life, the true focus of the film is to show us a world were women are not allowed to dress as women in western culture do. It’s a place where music and alcohol is banned and fun can only be had in small, tight groups. Even then, there’s a risk.
In a way, Marjane represents a woman positively influenced by the goodness of western culture. She falls in love with art. The art of music. The art of books and film. The art of western cultural norms. Such things are not always harmful if they are not abused. They’re simply outlets for which we exercise our freedom. They even drive us to be artistic ourselves.
Marjane becomes addicted to living in a free world. She so desperately desires to be free, that the angst within her cannot seem to grasp the concept, even when she’s traveling Europe as a teenager. Marjane fails to realize that she, unlike many men and women in Iran, can leave when things get rough. She can get a visa and leave the country, but so many others are trapped in an oppressive world they cannot escape--a place crying for freedom from their totalitarian leaders.
"Persepolis" takes us on this journey using visually alluring black and white imagery that stuns the viewer with its stark, inky animation. It’s like a graphic novel come to life, with the snarky, snappy writing leaking into every scene like a serialized comic. There are slow moments, to be sure, but the tale is one worth telling.
The film is, in many ways, reminiscent of writer Harvey Pekar’s biopic, "American Splendor" which captured that writer’s quirky yet realistic writing style, pairing it with live action set pieces and clever animated shorts. Here, "Persepolis" is entirely animated, but the film comes to life almost in the same fashion. It’s a striking tale of oppression and angst, told with an equally striking visual style. Of the three Academy Award nominees in 2007, "Persepolis" rightfully earned its unique position.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: B
Film Value: B
Sony presents the film in 1.78:1 widescreen at 1080p/AVC stretched across a dual-layer BD50 disc. Going into the film, I wasn’t expecting this transfer to "wow" me very much given that the film was presented in black and white. Boy, was I wrong. This is one visually striking transfer, rich with perfect, inky blacks and stone grays and pristine whites. There’s not a spot of dust or grain on the print either. Also, there’s not one ounce of digital compression or artifacting. This is a dazzling, flawless transfer and it should set the standard for what is considered reference in the two-dimensional animated realm. Perfect!
Sony presents an equally stunning Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track in both the original French and in the newly dubbed English. Both mixes (the English dub is incredibly solid) are absolutely stunning, riddled with awesome, ambient and organic surround effects, crystal clear dialogue and fantastically mixed music. Sound design here is again, flawless. This is one clear-cut occasion of a great mix and a great transfer making for a better movie viewing experience.
Aside from the English dub of the film, there are a handful of mostly French featurettes to peruse (subtitled in English).
• Commentary -- Featuring Marliane Satrapi, Vincent Faronnald and Chapa Mastroianni, this is a select-scene commentary (running only 7 minutes), but what we have here is incredibly fascinating.
• Featurettes: ‘Hidden Side of Persepolis,’ ‘Behind the Scenes of Persepolis’ -- Running nearly 40 minutes combined (the first feature is in French with English subtitles), both featurettes do a good job at setting up just how "Persepolis" went from graphic novel to screen adaptation. Featuring English interviews with Marjane Satrapi.
• 2007 Cannes Film Festival Press Conference -- Basically a Q&A (in French with English subtitles) with the cast and crew at the Cannes Film Festival. Very informative.
• Animated Scene Comparisons with Commentary by Marjane Satrapi -- The last and least of the bonus goodies is a quick 11 minute comparison of the graphic novel and the film.
The film is presented in an "Elite" blue case and is in keeping with Sony’s titles.
A daring, visually alluring film combined with a nearly flawless, outstanding Blu-ray. Sony has done a great job presenting a truly reference quality A/V presentation of a very important film that’s sure to elicit discussion among those who watch it.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: N/A
Recommendation: Worth owning.
On Blu-ray disc: June 24, 2008
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----R. L. Shaffer