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'Persepolis' a unique,
but bleak art house film

Persepolis (PG-13)

2 1/2 stars out of 4

If you're a fan of animation and are always on the lookout for something off the beaten path, "Persepolis" is just the ticket. Based on the graphic novel by Marji Satrapi (who co-wrote and co-directed with Vincent Paronnaud), the movie takes unorthodox subject matter and presents it in an unconventional way.

It's definitely unique, but does that make it worth your time and money? Unless you're interested in modern Iranian history or rudimentary black and white artwork, the answer is no.

Satrapi's movie is based on her own life growing up in Shah-era Iran and her adult life out of the country after the Shah was overthrown. The juxtaposition of Satrapi's character Marji before and after the reign of the Shah is clear and profound. She had a happy childhood, but once the extremists took control, her parents shipped her off to Europe so she could receive a proper education.

Separated from her homeland and exposed to a questionable Western values system, Marji becomes a "problem teen" who gets into all kinds of mischief and bounces from home to home. In Iran, this type of behavior would have cost Marji her life. In Europe, it simply makes her more colorful and worldly.

Throughout the film, scenes of Marji preparing to return home in the present day are shown in color and depict her as a jaded woman older than her years. Is she a victim of a heathen Western lifestyle or an enlightened woman eager to return to a more familiar, albeit restrictive environment? The filmmakers never answer the question and leave it up to the viewers to make their own decisions.

"Persepolis" is an existential art house movie that might have had a greater impact on a wider audience (particularly young women) had it been presented with traditional animation or better yet, live action. A difficult-to-take, foreign-based plot is a tough enough sell for American audiences. Presenting it in such a bleak, visually elementary and brittle storytelling manner (along with subtitles), makes it a complete deal-breaker for all but the most curious. (Sony Pictures Classics)

Presented in French with English subtitles.

Opens exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive, Atlanta. Call 678-495-1424 or visit www.landmarktheatres.com.