Thursday, October 11, 2007

Persepolis: no, it won't play in Peoria.

What would you say if I told you one of the best animated movies of the year was in another language? Fine, it's probably Japanese, cool. What if I said it was French? OK, The Triplets of Belleville, Renaissance, yes, France is suddenly hot again for animation. But what if I said the movie was about life in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution?

OK, I'll let that sink in.

What if I said that Persepolis is a movie based on a series of graphic novels telling a true story about an Iranian girl's coming of age in both Iran and Austria, and about her eventual going into exile in France, co-directed by the woman who wrote, drew and experienced it? And that one of the heroic characters is unflinchingly depicted as a Communist?

I'll let that sink in too.

Persepolis is beautiful. It's heartbreaking. It's hard to watch in places. However, over the past 30 years, Iran and Iranians have been so demonized in America, to the point where there are actually people in this country who would really, dearly love to see the country a smoking, radioactive ruin. And ever since the rise of Lenin, people in the US have been conditioned, rightly or wrongly, to have a knee-jerk negative response to anything even remotely smacking of Communism. So much so that we are the only industrialized nation to not have a national health care system. So much so that corporations have more rights than citizens do in the US.

It was a really courageous move for Sony Pictures Classics to pick up this movie. They are liable to take a bath on it. The most intelligent thing they could do is perhaps a star-studded dub. However, to make that work in the US, the dubscript would have to change so many elements of the story that it would never make it by the author. It's unfortunate, but true. This movie is doomed right out of the starting gate. Better see it quick, or order the DVD from Powells or Barnes and Noble or wherever, because it will be gone even quicker than Tekkon Kinkreet was from theatres.