Sony Pictures Classics Inc
A flash-back illustration from Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's "Persepolis."
PERSEPOLIS — *** 1/2 — Animated feature starring the voices of Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve and others; with English subtitles (European and Middle Eastern dialects); rated PG-13 (violence, vulgarity, profanity, brief sex, brief drugs)

"Persepolis" is probably the most faithful movie adaptation of a published work that you'll ever see.

Of course, there is a big reason for that fact: Writer-artist Marjane Satrapi contributed heavily to this Academy Award-nominated animated feature, which is based on her award-winning graphic novel. Satrapi co-wrote the screenplay and co-directed it with French animator Vincent Paronnaud.

Also, the film's animated imagery closely resembles Satrapi's deceptively crude, black-and-white drawings, and the sometimes-cheeky tone is kept intact. That was a wise decision.

And in at least a couple of respects, "Persepolis" is better the graphic novel. It's certainly better contained and focused than the source material, and is less rambling.

The coming-of-age tale is based on Satrapi's reminiscences of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Actress Chiara Mastroianni narrates and provides the voices of the teenage and adult Satrapi. (Gabrielle Lopes plays the younger version.)

Satrapi's parents (the voices of Simon Akbarian and Catherine Deneuve, Mastroianni's real-life mother) raised her to be strong-willed and independent-minded. So, it's no surprise when the young girl turns out to be outspoken as well.

And as everyday life in Iran becomes more dangerous and more repressive, Marjane is sent to Austria to study — as much for their own peace of mind as it is for her own safety.

The film works on multiple levels: as a history lesson, as a primer on Middle Eastern politics and as an artist biography.

Some off-beat humor is refreshing and is very welcome, and the voice cast is terrific — especially Mastroianni, Deneuve and veteran actress Danielle Darrieux, who provides the voice for Marjane's grandmother, a strong influence in her life.

"Persepolis" is rated PG-13 for strong violent imagery (shootings, warfare and some torture), crude humor and references (some of it sexual in nature), scattered strong profanity, brief sexual contact, and brief drug use and references. Running time: 95 minutes.

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