Monday, October 20, 2008

Film Club's first animated movie:

We entertained the full motley yesterday evening at Millbrooker Towers as film club began its autumn programme of screenings.

Alright, alright - I only wrote that to make it sound a bit grander than five middle-aged bods sitting around eating and drinking whilst watching a DVD.

We've not done an animated film before, and we quite likely won't do another for a fair old while. Not because Persepolis wasn't good; far from it. Persepolis is a fantastic piece of cinema; simply because I don't reckon there are all that many animations out there that I'd want to see.The film is an autobiographical tale of growing up in Tehran during the last days of the Shah and through the Islamic revolution. The film was released theatrically this year and has only recently become available on DVD. Now that it is available I recommend that you get yourself a copy and settle down for a couple of hours that will be both entertaining and educational.

The narrative concerns the young Marjane Satrapi as she tries to make head or tail of her nearest and dearest grown-ups who come from the intelligentsia of Iran; despising the Shah, but not wanting an Islamic state either. At heart the story is a coming-of-age tale, made poignant by the alien (to our eyes) cultural references and the pain of a violent society.

All that Marjane really wants is to be "normal" and accepted. "Normal" is what she can never be. She is too outspoken, too intelligent, seemingly too dangerous to a pig-headed and ignorant government; her family send her away to Europe for her own safety, but she cannot belong or be "normal" there either as she falls in with some rich kids playing at being revolutionary when she has seen, and still cannot understand, the real thing.. The medium of animation seems to give Marjane Satrapi (who as well as being the principal character, in real life wrote and co-directed the film) the freedom to express herself in a way that dealing with actors and sets could not. Consequently the film is desperately intimate, an awkward, stroppy and yet endearing tale - just like adolescence itself.

As an aside, another advantage of animation is that we could use the "dubbed" English version without the lip movements being horribly out of sync. Normally we wouldn't consider such an aberration and the subtitles would be on whilst the film plays in its original language, but this time it worked fine..
Like so many of the best films, it's a slice of life. There are moments of humour, often genuinely funny. There are moments of pain, like when Marjane's uncle in executed for his political beliefs. There are moments of natural pathos as Marjane's grandmother drops little pearls of wisdom into her ears.

This one's on the Christmas list and will be joining the Millbrooker Towers library for future viewings - it should probably be compulsory viewing everywhere: it has, at its heart, a vital message of humanity and human frailty. Bravo!

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