A President's Reflections

Two films — one win and one miss

Posted on August 26, 2009

Movie recommendation:

I highly recommend the 2007 autobiographical animated film Persepolis.  The story of Marjane Satrapi’s growing up in revolutionary era Tehran is amazing and based on her graphic novel of the same title.  The animation is stylized (and often impressionistic) and very retro in this age of Pixar and Disney computer whizzes, but it works.  The story is intimate and deeply personal (her story), but also offers a broad historical understanding of something which most Americans only knew from one angle, the embassy hostage crisis.  The experience of a modern, westernized, educated family falling under the brutal and backwards rule of a theocratic regime resonates as we are now directly involved in similar struggles in Pakistan and Iraq and Afghanistan.  For all those sweeping story lines, what stands out most is Marjane’s coming-of-age, her grandmother (the moral compass in the film), and the touching, painful attempts of a family to hold onto normalcy when all around them normal is slipping away.

Don’t watch:

The Watchman, last year’s film version of the mid-eighties comic series turned graphic novel.  Taking place in an alternative history version of Earth (Nixon is in office, we won in Vietnam, and we are on the edge of a nuclear war), the graphic novel is considered a seminal work in comic book and graphic novel traditions.  Time Magazine actually named it one of “The 100 Greatest Novels.”   It’s apocalyptic and dark and incredibly violent and while it is ostensibly about superheroes, it in many ways deconstructs the concept of heroes (never mind superheroes).  I found the graphic novel to be troubling and compelling and recommend it.  However, last year’s film adaptation, long awaited by fans, feels flat and labored.  The violence, harsh but 2-D on the page, feels more disturbing on film.  It was one of the rare films I simply turned off at some point.

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