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Marjane Satrapi (#110 of 3)

Far from Home Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City

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Far from Home: Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
Far from Home: Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City

A question for the history of the graphic novel: Will anyone ever write a cartoon equivalent of Moby-Dick, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or For Whom the Bell Tolls? Will there ever be a cartoonist who in his or her real life does a bunch of dangerous and exciting stuff, such as work on a whaling ship, pilot a river boat, or fight in a war, and who then sublimates those experiences via the imagination into a work of fiction that’s vivid and dense and spiritually substantial? More specifically, will there ever be a cartoonist who can combine with his or her comics all that you get in Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin (the audacity, the action, the energetic globetrotting) with all that you get in Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (the disappointment, the ambiguity, the baroque psychology)?

Guy Delisle’s new Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City is a nonfictional graphic novel about being far away from home in an occasionally dangerous and precarious and confusing place. It’s about living for a year in Israel while trying to be a husband, a father, and an itinerant cartoonist. Insofar as it’s a memoir, Jerusalem is low-key and humorous, and brings to mind Ross McElwee’s documentary Sherman’s March. Insofar as it’s a travelogue, Jerusalem is inquisitive and observant, and brings to mind another doc: Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil. As a whole, the book is both enjoyable and instructive; it makes you chuckle and grin, and it makes you feel like a more informed, concerned citizen of the world.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011: Moneyball and Chicken with Plums

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Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>Moneyball</em> and <em>Chicken with Plums</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>Moneyball</em> and <em>Chicken with Plums</em>

Despite being about as concerned with baseball management as Sports Night was with sports broadcasting, Moneyball still confronts co-writer Aaron Sorkin with a milieu in which he has trouble being putatively witty. (Brad Pitt, as the famously statistics-oriented general manager of the Oakland A’s Billy Beane, at one point hurls a locker-room fixture and listens to it wobble to rest in the corner. “You hear that?” he asks his indolent team. “That’s what losing sounds like!”) Granted, Sorkin’s not the sole auteur of the genre exercise, per se; both director Bennett Miller and second screenwriter Steven Zaillian are ensconced enough in specific iterations of the generic for us to glean their influence. What’s modestly fun to watch, though, is how clearly Sorkin sublimates the rushed, narrative itinerancy of his usually peppy dialogue almost entirely within character motivation.

Revolution Fades, Teen Angst Endures: Persepolis

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Revolution Fades, Teen Angst Endures: <em>Persepolis</em>
Revolution Fades, Teen Angst Endures: <em>Persepolis</em>

Persepolis was, per Wikipedia, “an ancient ceremonial capital of the second Iranian dynasty, the Achaemenid Empire.” Persepolis the movie never explains this, but the title is an easy symbol for the old glories of Iran, obsolete long before co-director Marjane Satrapi—author of the film’s source graphic novels—was born. Growing up in the late ’70s, young Marjane (Gabrielle Lopes Benites) idolizes Bruce Lee and lusts after Iron Maiden tapes; what it means to be Iranian, mainly, is to loathe the Shah’s regime as her parents do, without any conception of what might replace it. What comes next—revolution and theocracy—force Marjane’s parents to send her into exile, alone in Austria at age 14. Only abroad does any concept of nationalism come to her.

With graphic novels storming the multiplexes, it was only a matter of time before someone besides Dan Clowes brought them to the arthouse. But Persepolis doesn’t attempt the tricky task of bringing its distinct look to live-action: instead, it looks like the books in motion. Visually, it’s the most striking and sui generis piece of traditional animation since, say, The Triplets of Belleville, but its style doesn’t serve merely as an end. Instead, the melancholy shades of grey convey, unsubtly but effectively, the gloom and perpetual ambiguity of someone displaced both within and outside their country, living in a moment that feels historicized already.