Persepolis isn't so good. I am referring to the movie, having not read the comic. I thought about reading it, though, when it came out a couple years ago, and was generally acclaimed across the board. In the time since I've started to feel like the critics I like reading didn't really like it. Marjane Satrapi did other comics, which seemed like they were largely ignored.
I don't think I've read a big bashing of the book though, which does seem to be what the public is crying out for.
I walked out of the movie, thinking of the vague criticisms that haven't been quite formulated into essay form by other people. I left not because it was egregiously offensive, but because I felt like I "got" it. Where it was going, that there was nothing to get. The history happens in the background, and is never really presented in a way that's actually useful- knowing that world events effect some people is probably not as politically useful as knowing why the things are happening. The actual happenings are all in the background. What's in focus is this ordinary girl. This is what some people think is amazing, this is what works for people. But even her life isn't that much in focus, in terms of actually giving you insight to it. Was any of it in focus? It all seemed a blur, of signifiers of "ordinary girl"- western pop culture- and signifiers of Iran- revolution and the Shah. But why were things happening? The most vivid moments don't seem like they're coming from anywhere. Which kind makes them less than vivid.
I keep on thinking of The Wire, which is wrapping up now, and presents such a view of the way people effect systems while still being a part of them, and doesn't depict any of them as evil, just sort of at odds with each other. It gives you a great deal of insight into how political systems and bureaucracies work, by depicting them as made up of people, and then showing the consequences of people's actions. It's in deep focus. There, things that happen seem "real" in a way that they don't at all in Persepolis.
Also, Persepolis- while probably looking better as animation than it did as a comic- doesn't look so great. It has an alright style- an interesting one, that does the job (I guess- in a lot of ways, another style could convey more about character, or feeling, or information about Iran or whatever virtues the work's supposed to have that I didn't really pick up) but there's never a dynamic composition. There's a lot of cartoonists whose style doesn't really work for me and seems generic but who are masters of body language or balancing an image. Yeah- not a lot of body language in this one. These are the things that actually convey things graphically, like character, rather than just vague events. It's the same thing- not a real eye for detail, things aren't in focus. Things aren't felt. So I walked out early, maybe missing some stuff, but kind of convinced I wouldn't due to the nature of autobiography.
(Huh, Neko Case is covering The Train From Kansas City in audio form in the other room. I didn't know she did that.)
I liked The Savages, though, with its Chris Ware poster, and its single allusion to the work of Lynda Barry, and its eye for real things. It's probably also somewhat autobiographical, but with an eye towards details, and with a plot controlled by its characters. The detail about the toes curling up, Laura Linney surprised someone would want to read an unproduced play- and the way Philip Seymour Hoffman never offered- a student asks "what's the difference between narrative and plot." It's not the most visually stylized thing, but then, it's not animated, and has actors to do the work of conveying feeling with body language. There's even sight gags! This is Tamara Jenkins' follow-up to Slums Of Beverly Hills, a movie that was essentially okay, and this is better than, while still not being completely awesome. Who knows what of it I will remember months from now? (Probably Philp Bosco writing "prick" on the wall.) Sure, other things- the use of prescription drugs, the bad sex- will fade into other movies that had a better eye for detail, or that I just saw first, but still, it's got scenes other than that- where the subject matter is, with the decision to put the father in a nursing home- all of that works, and is well-observed, and can be recalled easier than I can recall the history of Iran as depicted in Persepolis.