Family values: Persepolis.
by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi
heroine of Persepolis is an Iranian growing up during
terrible years of repression and war in the 1970s and ’80s.
Over the course of the film, Marjane (first Gabrielle Lopes,
then Chiara Mastroianni) is transformed from intense child
to rebellious teenager to confused young woman, all the while
dealing with two murderous governments (in Iran) and a disconnected
exile in a Europe that’s insulated from the worst horrors
of this world.
This wondrous, heartbreaking and frequently hilarious animated
adaptation of the coming-of-age graphic memoir by Marjane
Satrapi is a must-see for anyone who wants to understand even
a sliver of what it’s like to live in one corner of what we—citizens
of these United States—like to refer to, monolithically, as
the “Middle East.”
After all, if we’re supposed to be going to war with Iran
eventually, it would be nice to know who we will eventually
The short answer is, many people who are a lot like us. Marjane’s
family is part of the professional middle class crucial to—and
mistrusted by—the U.S.-backed Shah. They rejoice when he’s
overthrown, but Marjane and her parents (voiced by Catherine
Deneuve and Simon Abkarian)—and beloved grandmother (Danielle
Darrieux)—soon discover that it’s a lot worse under the still-triumphant
Teenage life in Iran has many of the same pitfalls as anywhere
in the West. Just add in the fact that the religious police
can and will harass you at every opportunity.
The mostly black & white, Persian-art-influenced animation
is stark but fluid. The characters have the straightforward
expressiveness found in well-drawn comics, with complex emotions
economically rendered. The film is packed with sharp wit and
has an appropriately jagged tone—necessary as this grim personal
and political history shifts jarringly from love to terror
The voice acting is uniformly excellent, but best of all is
Darrieux. She first became an international star in 1937
opposite Charles Boyer in the doomed royal romance Mayerling,
and she is sensational here. By turns loving, caustic, angry
and proud, her voice work is better than some of the live-action
performances that earned Oscar nominations this year.
(Speaking of Oscar, that Persepolis will lose the Best
Animated Feature award is worse than unfortunate.)
Early in the film, Marjane’s grandmother admonishes her to
always remember who she is. In the last scene, as the grown-up
woman rides away from an airport in Paris, the cab driver
asks where she’s from. The rueful, haunted way Marjane answers
“Iran” reflects perfectly the tragedy captured in Persepolis.
by Andy Tennant
There was a time when I thought that Matthew McConaughey had
a chance to be a big star. His turn as a Southern lawyer in
A Time to Kill demonstrated a “good ole boy” amiability.
The horn-rimmed glasses he wore couldn’t detract from his
obvious camera-readiness. It seemed only a matter of time,
and perhaps a few good directors, until he took his place
as a reliable leading man. But then came a slew of big-budget
underperformers like Sahara, as well as milquetoast
romances like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and it
seemed the best the actor could do was to appear shirtless,
muscles rippling, in countless magazine pages.
experience must have been handy preparation for Fool’s
Gold, in which McConaughey plays Finn, a treasure hunter
who on numerous occasions is shot, or gets his head bashed
in, or is thrown—in chains—into the deep blue sea. All done
with superb athleticism, if not interest, taste, or narrative
quality. Director Andy Tennant, who penned this thin tale
with not one, but two other screenwriters, can’t seem to decide
whether he’s riffing on Romancing the Stone or Waterworld,
or any number of other films, good and banal, as he follows
Finn, his ex-wife Tess (Kate Hudson) and a very motley crew
of sidekicks off the coast of Florida to look for sunken Spanish
treasure. Hot on their trail are another treasure hunter,
whom Finn had defrauded in the past, and badass rapper Bigg
Bunny (“it’s one word!”), to whom Finn owes mucho moolah.
So much, in terms of stunt work and money, went into the action
sequences and water-toys that the moviemakers had to go cheap
on the soundtrack, opting for the kinds of reggae tunes one
would expect to hear at a touristy tiki lounge. Hudson, who
also at one time seemed to have a big career in front of her,
merely reacts to McConaughey’s dumb jock cuteness—that is,
when she’s not wrinkling her face up in ecstatic memory of
Finn’s sexual prowess. However golden and scantily dressed—Finn
and Tess make tans look very, very healthy—the stars can’t
keep our interest in this shipwreck of a movie. Only Alexis
Dziena, as Donald Sutherland’s dumb-bunny heiress daughter,
provides an occasional spark, giving me pause to consider
what might have been had she and Tess teamed up in some way.
Then again, when you’re forced (as a reviewer) to sit through
a movie as dismally bad as Fool’s Gold, you’ll think
of anything to try to live through the awfulness. Perhaps
the movie could be re-edited and salvaged. I think that Coppertone
is ready for a new campaign.