Watching Persepolis -- an animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi's best-selling graphic novel memoir -- I didn't just feel excited intellectually and artistically; I actually felt emotionally engaged, wrung-out, exhilarated, saddened and touched by Satrapi's story of life as a young woman coming of age in pre-revolutionary Iran and after. Persepolis is a fresh, moving, out-of-the-gate masterpiece -- a work of animation that manages to be artistically brilliant, politically rich, morally engaging and emotionally overwhelming.
Persepolis opens with grown-up Marjane (voiced by Chiara Mastroianni) at Orly airport in Paris, bracing herself for a trip to Tehran -- and adjusting her headscarf. She's looked and sidelong by strangers, judged for her submission to Islam -- and none of those judging her will ever know how reluctantly, sadly, dejectedly she puts on the hijab before heading home. Marjane grew up in Tehran in the '70s and the movie flashes back to her life in 1978: "When I was growing up, I had two obsessions: Shaving my legs one day and being the ultimate prophet of the galaxy. ..." Marjane is a kid -- exuberant, expressive, in love with Bruce Lee movies -- but even with the love of her mom (Catherine Deneuve) and dad (Simon Abkarian), Iran's not an easy place to be a kid; there's revolution in the street, the Shah in power and change in the air.