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Feb 4, 2008

Fletch's Film Review: Persepolis

I walked out of Persepolis wildly disappointed. Shocked. Speechless. I wish I could say it was because I had seen a bad movie. That would be easy.

This was much harder.

How can such a strong movie end so poorly? Was there a problem with the theater - did the reels get mixed up? A snafu in the editing room? Was it just me?

Obviously, I don't want to give away too much about a film, especially the ending, in a review, but to say the film lacks a cohesive ending is putting it gently. Strangely, I'm thinking that it really must be just me, as neither Mrs. Fletch nor any of the (admittedly few) reviews that I've read have made mention of this, which baffles me.

But that's probably just due to how highly I thought of everything that came before it. Marjane Satrapi's biographical novel come to life is highly personal yet extremely accessible. Ostensibly her life story up until now, Persepolis walks you through the trials and tribulations of a young Iranian girl, from appoximately age 10 to 35. Satrapi takes us on many walks and detours, from short histories of the Shah and revolutions to family tales passed from one generation to the next.

The whole thing is vibrant as can be, told with an optimism that is almost unwavering despite Marjane sometimes going through the hardest of times. Much of it is familiar ground (the awkwardness of puberty, the sadness of dealing with a lost loved one), but the way it is handled, the style of the animation and the vocal performances are so superb that everything seems refreshingly new - as if you'd never heard these types of tales before.

The animation is a charm as well. Sure, the fact that it's 2-D in a 3-D world adds to the kitch, but to say that's the only appeal would be wrong. The style deftly accentuates the onscreen mood, whether making a cartoon dog even more cartoonish, or using shadows and silhouettes to enhance the dread of an execution.

If I could figure out a way to encapsulate my feelings on the ending, I would probably say that

Fletch's Film Rating:

"It's in the hole!"

19 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Persepolis"

Mrs Fletch said...

Did we to the same movie? We certainly left with opposite feelings about the ending. :)

Marilyn said...

I don't think you can just say that the ending disappointed you without saying why. Put a spoiler alert in if you must, but I haven't a clue about what disturbed you.

Fletch said...

Fair enough.

Spoilers below!

I tried to allude to it on two occasions, first stating that the film "lacks a cohesive ending" and then ending my review mid-sentence.

To explain a bit more, I felt like the filmmakers didn't know how to end it (seeing as how it's a bio of a still-living person) and just decided to cut it off. She's in the taxi, says she's from Iran, and then it's over. Sure, they threw in the rehash of the grandmother talking about her flowers, but that's it?

I suppose one could take her response of "Iran" as meaning that she had come to not be ashamed of her past/heritage, but I still maintain that it was poorly done. It addition, I felt that the scenes tht were done in color (as they progressed through the movie) intimated that she was about to take a trip somewhere, not just flying in. (But that's a whole 'nother argument.)

Basically, it seemed like there was no effort made to give it any sense of closure. We hear that her grandmother died, she flies to France, gets in a taxi and it's over. Not even a closing shot of the taxi driving towards Paris?

Spoilers above!

Marilyn said...

OK, now I know what to respond to. I was also confused, but at the beginning, about what Marjane was doing at the airport--particularly, was she coming or going. I decided fairly quickly that I didn't care.

As far as the taxi ride is concerned, I think her statement of her true national origin was exactly right, the first step to trying out her grandmother's advice. I didn't feel the need for a "landscape" shot; in fact, I think it would have been a bit trite in this context. It would have emphasized the wrong thing--France instead of Iran.

Marjane's future is still ambiguous, so closure really is not possible. We'll have to wait for a sequel (maybe "Gaul").

Fletch said...

The "landscape" shot would just be one example. Really, just about any attempt at closure would have helped. I realize it's an ongoing life story, but that's no excuse to not give an ending, unless you're gonna come right out and say "to be continued" or something like that...

I'm ont asking for a tiny little bow, but it reminded me of No Country's end - I wasn't expecting such an abrupt end, and I expected much better having loved everything before it.

I'm also okay with being the only one that feels this way. :)

DCMovieGirl said...

Sounds similar to how I felt about There Will be Blood.

Thanks for the warning, though. I'll probably check it out at a matinée or sneak in.

The Fraze said...

Hmm - I was thinking about picking up the graphic novel. This is good news tho, I want to see this.

Daniel G. said...

I don't know if it was the ending that lacked cohesiveness so much as the whole movie. Visually it's a gem, but the story falters and, as I say in my review and you allude to, we don't really get to know who Marjane is. I'd like a story that personal to give me a little more intimacy with the subject, but I just didn't feel it.

derrick said...

I disliked the beginning and the ending, not in terms of story, but for whatever reason while the black and white animation that makes up 95% of the film is charming and wonderful, the color segments just looked lazy and cheesy.

* (asterisk) said...

I feel the ending of this post has left me confused. "I would probably say that"... what? You can't leave me hanging here!

Fletch said...

@ Daniel - Can't say I totally agree there. I felt like I got to know Marjane enough, but I can see what you mean. It's more about her response to outside influences.

@ * - "I feel the ending of this post has left me confused. "I would probably say that"... what? You can't leave me hanging here!"

Exactly. (But if you want to know more, I've left a spoilery explanation in the comments above.

Sheamus the... said...

Sweet man..definitely will check this out. Thanks for the visits over at the blogs.
At my theater we had some sweet promotional posters and pins.
The comic is recomended as well. We will see if it makes it on the list.

Matt said...

Thank you Fletch! When I saw this film I had the exact same feelings about the ending. On the one hand you have to respect that it's the unfinished life of a person. On the other hand, she's older now so her reflections can still include some of her judgments on this period of her life.

We could have gotten a segue to an older Marjorie who starts to write the book and begins to put some kind of closure or acceptance or -- something! -- to cap off her youth.

The way they cut to her leaving an airport is symbolic in an extremely general sense but feels like a cop out when compared to the distinctly individual experience Marjorie lived through before that point.

Obviously I'm still disappointed about that ending.

Fletch said...

Glad to hear that someone feels the way I do about it. Just about anything would have been better.

Nayana Anthony said...

Fletch! I've been away from your blog for about three days, and I don't know how I survived. This may explain the shakes...


I loved Persepolis, as you may know. The ending was a bit confusing, but I totally got the bit about "I'm from Iran". That was a huge step for Marjane. I was also a bit confused in the beginning about why she was at the airport (I also thought she was departing, not arriving). But maybe that was intentional, too. I mean, she's just left her homeland FOREVER. She's going to feel disoriented, and maybe what we saw was her having a short impulse to jump on the plane and go back.

I do like endings like this one, as well as the one from No Country. I feel it allows more for interpretation. It makes the film feel more like art to me, and less concrete.

Pat said...


Fletch -

I'm way late to the discussion, but I only just saw "Persepolis" this afternoon.

I actually liked the way "Persepolis" ended, especialy with the snippet of dialogue between Marjane and her grandmother. It kind of reinforced the "I'm from Iran" line for me, and signified that she is carrying forth the memory and example of her beloved grandmother.

But then, I tend to like abrupt, ambiguous finishes. I actually loved the ending of "No Country for Old Men" more than I liked what preceded it. (For some reason, though, the abrupt, black-scren ending of "The Sopranos" series just infuriated me. Go figure.)

Dunk said...

She was returning from the airport. Basically she remembered her past on the flight and was comfortable with her heritage when she answered the cabbie in France.

That could have been made a bit clearer. I think they could have cut 15 minutes and re-worked that a bit to give the story more flow. Otherwise I was really happy with it as an adaption of the graphic novels. Check those out - defintely worth reading.

Dunk said...

I'm dumb. I was think about this last night. I believe she left for the airport to Iran at the beginning. Had her memory session (the movie) an then returned to France at the end. IIRC, in the graphic novels she had to go back because her dad got sick or died. I don't remember exactly. This is where they could have done a better job of clarifying all that stuff.

Anonymous said...

I did not like the start of the film because the trailer told the same story, but with a whole different energy. But once the film went into the areas that can't be put in a cartoon trailer (love, life depression) I really began to like it.

The ending for me was amazing. It is of course the famous back of the bus shot, (but in a cab) leaving things behind and the future unknown. But more than that - you really felt she was torn away from her life in order to survive and she was not happy at all about it.

I found the ending was very bitter and angry, but it felt just right. And the ending leaving the audience feeling "empty" was just perfect.

She in the cab finally says with out any embarrassment, where she is from, but instead of making it a thing to swell sentimental music over, you are left to feel how empty she must have felt having to leave her family so she could live her life as a human being. Ending on the memory of her grandmothers words and smell and knowing she will never know that again, you know that you were to leave the theater feeling her loss.