Sunday, January 27, 2008

Persepolis: Bio-Graph.
A few unfinished thoughts.

by Sanaz Yamin


a tree

     Persepolis is unlike other biographies that have come out recently (and a lot of them have) in that it is not only a creation of the life of the character, but simultaneously the film must argue for its own importance. Films like Walk the Line, Ray, and I’m Not There shamelessly rely on the popularity of the personality of the character. I'm Not There, for instance, pauses and zooms at the moment of a recognizable portrait contextualized. What was once one image, now is one in a series, transferring that interest in the portrait to one in the story of it in images. But why care about any image of Marjane Satrapi, much less an hour and a half of them? Persepolis has to answer that question.

     This simultaneous introduction to and argument for the character is paralleled by the medium. Film captures and creates synchronically while drawing is diachronic. The why? of the image must be drawn with the film.

     An immediate reason I believe Persepolis is worthwhile: it interprets a politically controversial country from a rarely presented point of view. Despite that Iran is news, it remains a mystery. Even I had much to learn from the history presented in the film, and I’m Iranian, so it can also be informative.

     And then it’s also a great story, and it's beautiful. The black and white drawings highlight negative space in a way that only the best films can. The fades are not a curtain of black falling over the final image, but are the black from the image itself, seeping into the rest, or a zoom into the foreground, the passing of time or space between the images, therefore, is metonymic, as travel and time are to a life. I now wish I saw more color fades, a blue, red, green (i.e. Punch-Drunk Love), or even a picture -- not that pure black is not a picture in itself -- dissolving. But that's the whole point: blackness is still something, so why not choose a fitting something?

     Comments, criticisms, conversations welcome!

the black

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