Persepolis & r & & r & by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & very time Marjane Satrapi finds a degree of stability in her life, she has it taken from her. A child during the waning days of the Shah's rule of Iran, Satrapi (voiced by Chiara Mastroianni) experienced the giddy possibilities of revolution through the eyes of her "communiss" parents. As the revolution built on freedom gave way to a "free election" that installed the autocratic Islamic republic that exists today -- as certain family members died off and those who survived began settling into a middle age of bitterness and resignation -- Marji became increasingly unruly. Skulking the streets in headscarf and a cobbled-together pop insurrectionist uniform (punk jacket, Nikes), she goes looking for the long-banned artifacts of the West, and thus rebellion. "Estivie Wonder," come the hushed tones of contraband peddlers. "Julio Iglesias." "Jai-chael Mackson." "Iron Maiden."
It's Iron Maiden that she goes for. The Michael Jackson pin she wears opposite her "Punk Is Not Dead" patch suggests that she's already acquainted with the king of pop. And while she generally picks rock and metal as the soundtrack to her private war, everything in this repressive country carries the reek of mutiny. Even the Bee Gees.
As air guitar (inevitably) leads to public displays of defiance, Marjane's parents send her to a French school in Vienna, where she runs upon the bourgeois detachment of her revolutionary classmates and other struggles. Her own struggle with identity, for instance. Racism. Weed. Boys. The whole nine yards.
She's still incredibly young when, after some douche bag with soulful eyes breaks her heart and she almost dies on the street in her shock and torpor, God and Karl Marx -- inhabiting the same heavenly abode but clearly not friends -- come to her in a vision and talk her back from the brink. That's just the first two acts.
Animated in the most gorgeous shades of gray, Persepolis is bleakly sad and wickedly funny (often concurrently). It's writer/director Satrapi's autobiography informed by years of reflection on the stupidity of youth and the doomed naivet & eacute; of revolutionary ideals. While the bulk of the film is drawn simply, this act of reflection manifests onscreen as a great, fluid surrealist streak. Shadows elongate as friends become foes. Buildings twist and swell as streets of tranquility and high-mindedness become the stalking yards of a moral Gestapo. Once-loved stories of paternal heroism become juvenile puppet shows as Marjane, the grown-up, examines and gently pooh-poohs the silly, exuberant hero worship of her younger self.
And while, if asked, I'll still swear nothing good ever came out of Rocky III (everything worthwhile coming from Rockys I and IV, respectively), Chiara Mastroianni's hoarse, off-key rendition of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" during the film's get-your-shit-back-together montage stands as one of the great moments in cinema.
At the end of 100 minutes, Persepolis left me with a big hole in my heart, one that leaked bittersweetness and rage -- anger for Marjane and her fellow Iranians that their hope and trust was perverted so horribly after the fall of the Shah -- but a profound happiness that hope is able to survive at all. (One night only, Thursday, 2/28, at AMC; Rated PG-13)