A truly unique film: A black and white animated autobiographical feature, and among the few comic book adaptations to actually be helmed by the comics' own creator (Satrapi). Adapting and condensing her four books of growing up in Iran during the '70s and '80s (with a few troubled teenage years in Vienna), Satrapi, with codirector Parronaud, lifts her stark, simple cartoons off the page and invests them with breathtaking and wonderfully creative animation.
Persepolis astonishes every minute with its inventive visuals, filled with rich detail and gorgeous texture. The film is at once a brief history of Iran - how it devolved from a corrupt but Westernized nation into an oppressive religious state run by ignorant zealots - and Satrapi's own life story. Fortunately, by interweaving history with personal anecdotes, Satrapi keeps us from feeling like we're just listening to somebody talk about themselves. Her own life may have been no more or less remarkable than anybody else's, but she knows how to tell a good story and provide wry, unsentimental insight into the making and unmaking of a nation that, in Western eyes, is mysterious and frightening.
Although I was left wanting a bit more at the end - the film quietly concludes without any big hurrah - I still found it an excellent piece of cinema and a fresh reminder of what wonders can still be achieved with traditional, hand-drawn animation, even as everybody else continues to play with their computers.