Everything Is Iran-imated

010408 hamilton Everything Is Iran imatedWhen The Observer recently asked Persepolis director Vincent Paronnaud about his working relationship with co-director Marjane Satrapi, author of the best-selling graphic memoirs that inspired their new film, the French comic artist shyly admitted that it was perfection. “[We’re a] dream team—we are very complementary,” said Mr. Paronnaud with a charming French accent, before dragging on a cigarette.

Their animated film Persepolis chronicles Ms. Satrapi’s experiences growing up in a progressive Iranian family before, during and after the Iranian revolution and the subsequent rise of oppressive Islamic rule in the country. (Her first book was similarly titled Persepolis. She’s also written Persepolis 2, Embroideries and Chicken With Plums.) Ms. Satrapi’s intensely personal and often humorous narrative underwent the transition from 2-D illustration to richly stylized animation to triumphant visual effect. Extracting lushness from a mostly black-and-white palette, the film features dreamy psychedelic sequences, occasional shadow puppetry and visual references to German Expressionism. A seemingly effortless evolution for longtime friends and fellow illustrators Ms. Satrapi and Mr. Paronnaud, the film actually took three years to complete. His take on their process and shared artistic goals was to create a final product that stayed true to Ms. Satrapi’s original vision. “We did this movie without any compromises, and it worked,” he said.

The current version of the film, which opened on Christmas Day, is in French with English subtitles, and features the voices of Chiara Mastroianni; her mother, Catherine Deneuve; and fellow screen legend Danielle Darrieux. Ms. Mastroianni and Ms. Deneuve will reprise their respective roles as Ms. Satrapi and her mother in the future English-speaking version of the film, alongside Gena Rowlands, Sean Penn and Iggy Pop. (Imagine if these folks were in a live-action movie together—mon Dieu!)

Mr. Paronnaud hopes the film will offer some insight and empathy to viewers about Iran and its complex history and culture. As he put it, “This is not a propaganda movie—it’s honest, it’s life.”

Persepolis is now in theaters.