An Interview with the Directors of Persepolis

In Indie Wire, an interview with Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (you can watch the trailer here):

Set in Teheran in 1978, “Persepolis” is a cinematic memoir, a coming-of-ager about a clever, fearless girl growing up during the period leading to the Shah’s downfall, and then the repressive Islamic regime. For a time Marjane outsmarts the “social guardians,” discovering punk and Iron Maiden, but her boldness causes her parents to fear for her safety. At age 14, she’s sent to school in Vienna, where she finds herself tarred with the fundamentalism she fled her country to escape. Marjane returns home to her close-knit family —and the tyranny of Iran — but leaves after a few years to settle in France.

How to explain to date the success of this black-and-white toon? Its characters grab you, for one, starting with Marjane herself (Mastroianni), an elfin, irreverent figure who converses with God and Marx, and struggles to make sense of a repressive regime; then later in Vienna, wrestles with adolescent angst compounded by her exile status. Add to the cast her uncle Anoush, her mentor and a political prisoner; and her outrageous grandma (voiced by Danielle Darrieux), offering unconventional views on life and love (a character, Satrapi told me, she had to tone down from the reality). And like a good novel, the film is packed with concrete details that render the texture of a life. Satrapi has devised a pungent mix of the personal and the political, engaging viewer sympathy for her protagonist, while opening a window on a complex culture.

indieWIRE caught up with Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud during a recent press junket in New York. You’re immediately struck by how Satrapi in person resembles the Marjane of the graphic novel and film: same dark flashing eyes, mole on the nose, mischievous curl to her lip. Paronnaud speaks little English — but Satrapi, though suffering from a killer cold, talked with gusto about the genesis and creation of “Persepolis,” vehemently insisting on its “non-political” stance, until her voice literally gave out.