[Film] Persepolis

Film festival ended last night. We went to see Persepolis, a french dubbed cartoon based on the graphic novels of the same name by Iranian Marjane Satrapi. It was a satirical and semi autobiographical take on the life of one particular urban secular family culture before, through and during the Iranian revolution. I am told that the comics were a little less sober and restrained.

It depicts her journey from childhood to young womanhood, puncuated with politics, family suffering, heavy metal and 2 periods of pseudo-exile. Several of her big family characters really grew on me, her wise totally politically incorrect posh granny and her committed lefty/commie uncle. There's some really ancient wisdom coded into the script.

Granny speaking with her as she's about to live for Vienna: ~ "You will meet a lot of jerks in your life and they will hurt you. Try not to hate them for it and remember it is because they are stupid. There is nothing worse than resentment and bitterness."

The most choking part for me was when she'd really had enough of things in the West. Telephoning her father from hospital , she asks if she can come home with no questions asked.

Granny makes a stunning comeback on the point of integrity. Back in Iran and newly in love, Marjane frivolously relates a near escape from the Guardians (public morality 'gardeners') to her.

All dolled up and waiting to meet a bloke in a park a bunch of Guardians crash into the scene and start 'reminding' people and being nosey. Anticipating potential entroublement and drawing on her handbook of tough situational escape tactics she plays the innocent little girl appealing to the "brother, brother" guardians to jail a chap (like you shak!) sitting on a park bench for insulting her. Chap on bench is summaraly arrested and taken away.

Granny goes rather ape upon hearing this, not finding it childishly amusing at all. She storms out of her presence and takes the care of shaming her. The lesson is of the lowliness of 'selfishness for self preservation' and that there is always a choice and a better way, a point her uncle died making.

I found a lot of dignity and identity through the film, which distinguishes it from other market or righteous indignation fodder. Her father's advice of 'Remember who you are and what you are from' hit me as very familiar. The British Petroleum origins of the Shah and the Iran-Iraq war trap were very well framed indeed, the former with humour, the later with something much darker and poetic.

What marked this cartoon out for me were the buckets of humour, charm and reality. It was not a naff sense of humour either. There are several levels of wit, and possibly the best use of the Eye of the Tiger that I've heard since we ran up the steps of the Albert Hall after finals. Perhaps enough evidence to disprove the female inability to be funny thesis. Maybe enough too for some to add to the pile market 'manipulative, flattery'. I suppose its on what your focus is.

The politics of appreciation and taste are weird. At one point the mocking tone in the laughter of the audience itself tasted foul. Imprint of western supremicism perhaps, but the momemt was funnily pulled off. I think that arty farty people in the occident love Iranian culture despite their stance on Islam and the Muslim Worlds. Therefore Iranian cinema and art particularly charms them with its 'contradiction' and 'enduring spirit through oppression' value.

Theres a lot of politics in how this is being awarded, promoted and demoted. I rarely recognise the essence of films I see in the reviews of them. And the Iranian Government did have a point in objecting, this particular artefact wasn't about the glory of the Revolution and post Revolution successes, and it was an oppositional production. The comic books are presently used to foster state militancy's sense of civilising mission in the Middle East.

However, from an aesthetic view it is a good example of the potential of Cultural J coded for several audiences.

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