Would someone please tell me why otherwise-sophisticated filmgoers absolutely refuse to see an animated film? My wife reads the comics every morning (well, some of them), but she would not go to see the "Simpsons Movie" or "South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut," to say nothing of "Cars" or "Toy Story." And now I don't know if she'll even be willing to see "Persepolis," this most amazing animated film by an Iranian woman named Marjane Satrapi, who was born in 1969 to outspoken and intellectual parents in Tehran, and brought up those first years into a world dominated by the Shah; then when he was exiled they had their visions of democracy crushed by the Ayatollah Khomeini. They sent their outspokane daughter to an acquaintance in Vienna, where she ultimately had some very difficult years, and came back to Tehran wiser and much more grown-up and wrote two graphic books about her life.
Now those novels have been turned into the most beautiful animated film in ages, using just the black and white outlines of people, accented with infinite shades of gray and with an occasional moment of color that give the film a luminescence which only enhances the political and personal stories it tells - stories of confronting the Ayatollah's police and their thugs; stories that are balanced by Marjane's relationship with her parents (her mother is voiced by Catherine Deneuve and her beloved grandmother by Danielle Darrieux). She herself is voiced by Chiara Mastroianni (daughter of Marcello and Deneuve).
The story sucks us in, so willingly we can't wait to hear every moment of it; as we see how her childhood was shaped by her parents and grandmother, and by the stories her uncle Anouche told about his life. And then she is sent, for her own good, to Vienna as a teenager; and what she finds there, and the way in which she grows up. And then, realizing that life in that city is not for her, she comes back to Tehran. Let me leave it there, though I can tell you that she is now living and writing in Paris, a city that is much more congenial to someone like Marjane.
This is a film that is so adeptly drawn that we know Marjane as though she were there on the screen, live, in person; and the same goes for her family and those she comes in contact with. And the voices could not be more appropriate to the film. In the same way that Art Spiegelman's graphic novel "Maus" had more impact than had it been told in prose, "Persepolis" is a perfect film, with all the overtones and resonances that any viewer could wish for.