Persepolises

July 24, 2008

I had the pleasure of watching Persepolis with an audience the other day. Other than the energy of watching in a room full of people, a couple of things struck me:

1) The animation was delightfully old-fashioned. Yes, economics made them use computers. To my eyes, all computer-aided animation looks like either paper cutout (2D) or puppet (3D) animation, technically impressive but hardly a leap forward. In Persepolis, however, the frame-to-frame shifting of scene and character, especially in the flights of fantasy, reminded me of the kind of animation, handmade, that best represents the medium. Giannalberto Bendazzi champions such works in his encyclopedic Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation, works that make the world contingent between frames.  Much cooler than just building a drawn world and treating it like the real one.

2) Compared to the source book, which reads like a letter or diary, the film indulges much more in fantasy. For instance, the scene where Marjane dances from rooftop to rooftop plays as spectacle (never mind the crowd-pleasing “Eye of the Tiger” bit).  Film, I think, must have Vaudville built into its DNA, or else the chance to sing & dance in front of a crowd’s just too seductive.  These Persepolises are, of course, two different works, but I was surprised at how different.

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