Plot: What’s it about?
Marjane (Chiara Mastroianni) is a young woman in the midst of cultural upheaval. Her native Iran is being overtaken by fundamentalists who seek to impose their will on the masses. This revolution would crush all kinds of personal freedoms, from art to women’s basics rights to political thought, with dire consequences to anyone who dares oppose the movement. Marjane’s parents try to shield her from these ruthless forces and keep their beliefs intact, but the dangers continue to grow. So Marjane is sent to Vienna, but she doesn’t connect well with those she encounters there. When she meets some free thinking radicals however, she learns about a whole new group of problems to face. Will Marjane be able to find the answers she seeks and discover her place in the world, or at least her place in Iran?
I admire the filmmakers of Persepolis, as this is one animated feature that strives to do more than entertain. The film tells a story that has harsh real life elements and hard questions, not traits you’ll find in many recent animated movies. So while Persepolis is uneven and pushes a little hard at times, at least an effort was made to pack in genuine substance. I can forgive the film’s flaws, as it has high aspirations and even manages to reach them at times. This is at its heart a coming of age tale and as such, it leans on cliches here and there, but the process never feels forced. As for the animation, Persepolis has a simple, but memorable style that allows the story to standout, while providing enjoyable and unique visuals. I listened to the original French soundtrack and the voice talent seemed on the mark and natural. In the end, while I didn’t gush over Persepolis, it is a good movie and one that earns a solid recommendation.
Video: How does it look?
Persepolis is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I wasn’t sure how much of an improvement this kind of material could offer, but this is impressive work. The animation might be simple, but it looks flawless in this transfer and you’re really drawn into the visuals. There is never even a second of visible softness, as detail is strong from start to finish, to the point where this 2-D image just shines. The contrast is dead on as well, with stark black levels that never waver and white hues that never bloom, simply stunning work here. I wouldn’t call this a reference disc, but since the movie looks perfect in this presentation, I am awarding the visuals the full five stars.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original French soundtrack is preserved in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 option, which offers a more active experience than I had expected. The film has a number of powerful scenes and they sound dynamic, with intense surround presence that lets the impact come across. Also on the powerful side is the music, which adds more presence and the rock music soundtrack is loaded with songs you’ll recognize. There are many scenes that lean on the front channels of course, but that is to be expected and overall, this is a great soundtrack. This disc also includes an English language track, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The most substantial supplements are a half hour featurette that offers a nice overview of the production, and a Cannes Q&A session that has some welcome insight. Also on deck are a brief promotional featurette, audio comments from Satrapi on a few scenes, and some animatic comparisons.