Friday, December 14, 2007

Persepolis Preview at the Kabuki

Wednesday night I was privileged to attend a special San Francisco Film Society screening of Persepolis. A big part of the event was the chance to check out the remodeled Kabuki Theater. It's actually pretty much the same, except that there are now fancy bars on the 2nd & 3rd floors. On the 3rd floor, there is just barely a view of the city lights over the rooftops of the neighboring buildings. I guess the idea is that you can see a movie then adjourn to the bar with your friends to discuss it. It's not clear to me if you have to buy a movie ticket in order to get into the bars, though.

The event was sold out, so naturally the bar was completely overwhelmed. It took a really long time for me to get a glass of Spanish red wine, for which they charged me $6. Not unreasonable.

Before the screening, there was a brief on-stage interview with Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud, the directors. The movie is based on Satrapi's Persepolis memoir. Satrapi's appearance was the highlight of the evening. She is a very smart & a very funny woman. There was a comic opposition between her outgoing, out-spoken personality & her co-director's reserved & silent demeanor. Among the concepts she threw out in her answers to questions:
  • She dislikes the label "graphic novel" to describe her books, "novel" being a far too bourgeois art form.
  • We usually stop drawing by the time we're 10, so we think of drawing as something that belongs to childhood. We can talk about how poetry or music has meaning, but we have no way of talking about how a drawing has meaning. Yet drawing is prior to writing.
  • When we think of animation, we tend to think of cartoon rabbits, but animation is not a genre, it's a medium.
  • Fanatics know how to push the buttons of people's emotions. They get people to start yelling or be fearful. Any artistic work (which is about asking questions, not providing answers) or intellectual work, therefore, is a work against fanaticism.
  • When asked how she had the courage to tell this story, she said that Italo Calinvo says, "I write to express myself without getting interrupted."
As for the movie itself, it is a very direct adaptation of the books, both in the visual style & in the storytelling. If you are familiar with the books, then the movie offers no new information. However, this is no negative criticism. It's a great story experience, showing the tight intertwining of the political, the personal & the familial.


The Opera Tattler said...

How great to hear that Satrapi is as whip-smart as her work, I wish I could have gone to this.

Axel Feldheim said...

Judging by what was on display that evening, I'd say that the books give a pretty honest portrait of her personality. It was easy to imagine her as the precocious child depicted in the 1st volume.