Director: Marjane Satrapi
Year: 2007
Rating: 8.0
Country: France

An animated autobiographical rendering by Marjane Satrapi based on her wonderful graphic novels of the same name. It is brilliant - at times droll, sardonic, sad, painful, intimate and ultimately a powerful statement of female and individual independence in a world bent on taking that away. It is also a coming of age story of sorts and a tribute of love to her family and in particular her grandmother who is the moral cornerstone of her life. The animation is black and white - charcoal like at times - seemingly simple with basic uninteresting facial features and bland backgrounds but very clever and perfect at creating a mood that is nearly always grim and apprehensive.

Grim because most of it takes place in Iran from just before the fall of the Shah through the Revolution, the war with Iraq up to the mid-1990s. All through the eyes of a young spirited optimistic girl of about eight when the film begins and a much less optimistic woman when it ends. Her family with her loving parents and grandmother are upper middle class with politically liberal leanings and anti-Shah sentiments. A short history is provided by the father of the illegitimacy and cruelty of their ruler that even affected their own family. When the Revolution first drives the Shah into exile they all celebrate their freedom - but then something even worse slowly takes its place - the Islamic Republic which executes people by the thousands - even those who helped lead the Revolution but were not deemed pure enough. Some of their family and friends are among those executed. Many flee the country.

Their social world disappears as do their freedoms in particular for women who now have to dress a certain way, think a certain way, never be with a man not part of the family without escort. The young girl Marji pushes back but there is no pushing back in Iran unless you want to be punished badly - with the walls closing in around her and a war outside those walls, the parents send her off to school in France where she lives for much of the 80's. I have to admit that this section of the film didn't work as well for me - a failed assimilation story but it didn't pull me in as do the parts in Iran. Which she eventually returns to.

This is mesmerizing - such a serious story being told in animation seems like it should not work but it does probably better than if it had been in human form - the animation allows Satrapi, who co-directs, to take flights of fancy and skip quickly along landing from time to time to hit you hard with reality. It was done in French (two of the speakers being Catherine Deneuve and Danielle Darrieux) but I wish it had been done in Persian to give it an even more authentic feel - there is an English version (also with Deneuve) but no idea if a Persian version exists. This most certainly never played in Iran! Satrapi returned to France where she now lives.