All due admiration and respect for Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud‘s Persepolis (Sony Classics, 12.25), which I liked for the stark Iranian social realism and the austere black-and-white animation, but a lot of people are agog that it’s been selected by France as its Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entry instead of Olivier Dahan‘s La Vie En Rose, which many had presumed was a slam-dunk to receive official submission.
Persepolis is a highly respectable piece (some have called it a masterpiece), but La Vie en Rose is a grand emotional epic — not a great film but a very convincing and richly composed one that rocks with hurt and history and the whole French magillah. Was there ever a greater musical emblem of 20th Century France than Edith Piaf? And those last 20 to 25 minutes are amazing. It really punches through.
The pro-Persepolis decision was an inside-the-Beltway political call made by a six-person Parisian committee, with Unifrance president Margaret Menegoz said to be wielding the most influence.
“The committee figures La Vie en Rose has already had its day and is already a success,” a distribution exec confides, “and that this way Persepolis will mean France has two major award-quality films in the U.S. marketplace. The committee always wants to help the little films…it’s a political thing. Mexico did the same thing a few years ago when they didn’t select Y Tu Mama Tambien because it had already become a hit.”
The French committee is also figuring that La Vie en Rose is doubly ratified because Marion Cotillard, who plays Piaf, has it in the bag to get nominated for Best Actress. Cotillard probably is a lock, but it still seems like an odd internal political call.
Again, no slight intended for Persepolis, which after all shared the jury prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, has a 100% positive Rotten Tomatoes rating, and will close the New York Film Festival on 10.14. Sony Pictures Classics will open it in New York and L.A. on 12.25 with a limited wide release in January.