Persepolis (UK - BD RB)
Reviewer Marcus Doidge gets animated about the Blu-ray release of Persepolis
Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, Persepolis is the critically acclaimed animated film based on Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. The story follows Marji, a young girl, as she grows up against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution, the Islamic fundamentalists taking power and how Marji's life and the lives of those around her change because of it.
Highlighting just how little I knew about the history of this part of the world, Persepolis does a stellar job at making this a detailed account under the guise of a very personal tale. It feeds you the information from a human point of view, a lot of which is through the eyes of a child growing up. Marji is instantly a character that draws you in, other than the coolness of seeing this little ten year old animated character idolising Bruce Lee, you are seeing the events of the world changing around her through very innocent eyes. Seeing how her family is affected by the new regime that's forced upon them and how the very fabric of their everyday lives changed so drastically, really made for an interesting take on these events in history.
Persepolis could very well have been all about these events but the story goes so much further and continues with the ongoing effects. Watching Marji grow up in the ever changing world around her shows a very realistic teen-life which includes getting into heavy metal, punk and Michael Jackson and more so, seeing how this character's resisting against the government on a very teenage scale isn’t unlike much of the rest of the world. The fears that this induces in her parents feels so much more pressing considering the political backdrop and when they decide to send their daughter away to Austria, you get an even broader look at how the world outside of Iran was so different to what Marji was used to. Once again this is the sort of thing that pushes Persepolis in the direction that was always going to get it noticed for being more than just 'an animated film'. To follow this character into the real life turmoil of falling in love, bouts of depression and returning to Iran to find it more tyrannized than ever, is something that is above and beyond what’s seen as the norm in the animation field (though anyone who's a fan of animation will know beforehand that’s not the case at all).
I think in general a lot of us have a very narrow view of the politics and way of life in Iran and the surrounding areas and Persepolis does a very good job at highlighting this fact—for me anyway, for some, I’m sure it feels oversimplified. There were so many elements woven into this story that were genuine surprises to me. The lifestyles of the Iranian people before and after the political change, the day to day family elements of many of the films characters and especially how different this account was to my very un-educated view of the problems the country has had to deal with over the last few decades.
That said, for however informative and eye opening Persepolis was, I never found it as rewarding as critics and the general hype around it led me to believe I would. Marji is a very well presented character that keeps you involved in the movie throughout, but the format around her sometimes feels a little too episodic, really showing off its comic book roots in an almost Garfield short story panels way (not that I’m comparing this to Garfield in anyway outside of the structure). The end of the middle act gets a little too slow in places and as Marji gets older and events get even more downtrodden and heavy, I began to feel as if I was watching something that would be shown in schools for years to come, rather than feeling like I was watching a movie or a piece of informative entertainment.
The visuals of Persepolis and particularly how they are presented on this Blu-ray release, are quite remarkable. On the surface, it looks as if Persepolis may be quite a bland animated movie; quite simple and nothing exciting. Anyone thinking that is so far from right as Persepolis is a visual delight. Beginning in colour, the bold images of the character designs strike you immediately. Once this switches over to full black and white, with every shade in-between, the images really seems to come to life. The characters themselves, with their white faces and black clothing are flawless in this HD transfer. I don’t think I saw a speck that shouldn't have been there. The whites glow brightly off of the screen and the blacks are bold and strong. In fact there’s something about the overall boldness of the images in this movie that almost made my 42 inch screen seem about twice its size and as a fan of animation, especially 2D animation, it was quite enthralling.
Persepolis is full of top quality animation design. It uses so many different techniques and visual tricks that you can't help but be in awe. The images of war are both disturbing and wonderfully captured. There's a scene where Marji discovers the hand of a bomb blast victim that is both shocking and haunting without really showing you anything. It's a very striking image as are many of Persepolis’s greatest moments.
At the complete opposite end of the scale, the study in the human emotions captured, in what are quite simple character designs by modern standards are spellbinding. Little movements in a characters reaction really show off the talents of all of the artists involved in this project and it's a joy to see that it's all been captured so beautifully on this Blu-ray release.
Now I know overall, that using just black and white in an animated movie is never going to cause that many problems in regards to transfer and this was always going to look good on both DVD and Blu-ray, but even going into Persepolis knowing that this would more than likely be the case, I have to say I am still left impressed. With the combination of exceptional visuals from some very talented artists and a full HD experience, my confidence in 2D animation for this new generation of movie making is at an all time high and Persepolis will be my benchmark of quality while I wait for more to come along.
There’s not really much to say here. The sound mix has moments where it does a little more than is required, but essentially this is quite a dialogue based affair. That said, the dialogue is crisp and clear in both the French and English audio selections. The music used fills the surround-sound nicely and overall the audio remains strong throughout.
There’s quite a nice selection of features here, besides the fact not a great deal of thought has gone into them. There’s a whole host of interviews with many of the people involved in the making of Persepolis, including Vincent Paronnaud, Gena Rowlands, Joe Sacco and Brian K Vaughan. These are all done individually—all very generic and all clock up to about two hours in total . Everyone involved has a lot of interesting things to say, but the way it’s presented is quite cold, using the dull inter-cutting of the questions on a black screen.
There’s also a short animated film ‘Raging Blues’(6:06) from Vincent Paronnaud, which was quite entertaining. The one feature that was really interesting was the Making of (30:12). We get Marjane Satrapi with whom we get a very good look at the process of making this movie. It’s a personal, funny, very enjoyable look at the entire production of this movie with some great insight into Satrapi’s feeling on traditional 2D animation as well as a detailed look at all the other elements that were involved in the making of the movie. This feature is well worth checking out, it's just shame a little more time wasn't spent maybe editing this and the interviews into one larger documentary and making it a little more special.
Persepolis is one hell of a visual treat for any fan of animation and is a very personal story about what is still very much a current concern in the world today. The movie itself is understandably a critical darling considering its topics and the style of the movie and for much of that, I agree with the praise whole heartedly.
However, as a piece of movie entertainment, I can’t say that it kept me engaged for its entire ninety-five minute run time. I certainly wasn’t in awe of it by the end as I was for the first hour or so and because of that I can’t say I recommend it on a blind purchase. This may very well be worth the rental first or even the inevitable showing of it on Film4 at some stage soon. Saying that, I’d imagine for those of you who are already fans from the cinematic run and will no doubt be jumping straight in, you are in for a treat, because I can’t imagine that Persepolis could look much better than this.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 18th August 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French
Extras: Short Film : Raging Blues, Making of, Interviews
Easter Egg: No
Director: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
Cast: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve Danielle Darrieux
Genre: Animation and Drama
Length: 95 minutes
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