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We stare up at the screen, watching an animated landscape of line drawings at an airport. In one terminal, a woman with black hair and dressed in a red shirt sits on a bench. She lights up a cigarette and puffs on it. We hear giggling off screen, and a little monochrome girl runs into the frame. She continues, going off into her own little black-and-white world. This is the woman 20 years ago when she was a little tyke growing up in Tehran during the rule of the Shah.

This opening scene/transition of Persepolis is filled with so much command of craft that I am still left in awe. Despite the simple art, the movements of characters are filled with a maximum amount of energy. And as much as I love Ratatouille, Persepolis really is the best animated film of last year, and one of the very best movies of 2007.

The film is the winner of the Jury Prize (and nominee of the Golden Palm) at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Marjane Satrapi wrote two graphic novels based on her life during the fall of the Shah in Iran. Present-day Marjane is shown in color, and when she has a flashback, everything is in starkly contrasted black-and-white.

Ten-year-old Marjane is just a little girl in love with her heroes, like when she kicks a kid in the head because she is pretending to be Bruce Lee. It’s both sad and funny to see how children like her are affected by their surroundings. After being told a story about how her uncle was tortured and held prisoner, Marjane plays a game with her friends, saying that the “loser gets tortured.” It’s funny to see how impressionable kids are, but when children hear phrases every day like, “To die a martyr is to inject blood into the veins of your country,” it’s easy to understand why over a million people died during the revolution.

While revolutionaries were seen as a threat, Marjane is a revolutionary in her own way as the little girl slowly grows into a woman, which nobody can stop. She likes Iron Maiden and, in one hilarious scene, buys a bootleg tape in the street. The battle between her and friends is not what “side” they are on but whether they like the Bee Gees or ABBA. One scene shows her physical growth into a woman with absolute perfection: her body parts grow, and she begins to look like something out of a Pablo Picasso or Frida Kahlo painting.

About 45 minutes or an hour into the movie, I just stopped taking notes so I could absorb every detail that the film had to offer. This isn’t a movie like 300: rather than simply recreating images, the shots and scenes seamlessly come together to make their own little world that is just as believable as our own.

Persepolis is an absolute must-see and a new addition to the canon of coming-of-age movies. This brilliant work of art is nothing less than an instant classic.

Rating: 9/10

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