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01/04/08

Three Generations of Actresses Talk About PERSEPOLIS: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, and Danielle Darrieux

 

PERSEPOLIS is a film about family, so it's fitting that its three leading ladies are, not quite, but very nearly, a family dynasty of French cinematic glamour. Chiara Mastroianni, whose voice brings to life the teenage and adult Marjane Satrapi, is the daughter of Catherine Deneuve, who plays Satrapi's mother. Danielle Darrieux, who plays Satrapi's grandmother, has played Deneuve's mother so often (most recently in François Ozon's 8 Women) that one could be forgiven for believing that they are truly related.


 


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Official Selection 2007 Toronto International Film Festival

Official Selection 2007 Telluride Film Festival

Official Closing Night Selection 2007 New York Film Festival

 

OFFICIAL FRENCH SELECTION FOR THE 2007 BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

ACADEMY AWARDS

 

 

"The three of us have been building a kind of film mythology, passed down through generations," laughs Darrieux.

 

Says Mastroianni of her film grandmother, "She's stunning. I can understand why Marjane wanted to work with her. There's a connection between them. Like Marjane, Danielle also has a strong sense of self-mockery and propriety. There's a spark in her eyes, and she always has a positive and inquisitive approach to others."

 

All three actresses first came to know of Marjane Satrapi through the Persepolis books. As Deneuve explains, "The way she uses her graphic back-and-white visuals is totally surreal and realistic at the same time. I like her spirit. I like her freedom. I like her story, which she tells with wistfulness, humor, and self-mockery. When she asked me to be her mother's voice in the film, I instantly said yes because it was her and because I'd wanted to do a voice for an animated feature for a long time."

 

Satrapi and Paronnaud decided to record the lead characters' voices before beginning work on the drawings, so the film images could match the actors' voices and emotions. With no visual back-up to rely on, Satrapi read through the script with each actor. Deneuve recalls, "Marjane's script was terrific. It was not only very true to the books, but it also included a genuinely cinematic narrative. We met at the studio, and she played and directed opposite me. She was always there for me, paying close attention. She was very specific, yet gave me a great deal of freedom playing the scenes."

 

Darrieux, too, enjoyed the liberty of the studio recordings. "I don't like rehearsing much, usually going by instinct, so with Marjane I enjoyed relying on that immensely. Marjane knew exactly what she wanted, I readily did what she asked, and it went very quickly. Later, Marjane and her producers showed me a short excerpt of the film. When I saw the grandmother's face and heard my voice, it was an odd feeling, but I was really surprised. I thought it matched perfectly!

 

Clearly relishing her character of Marjane's grandmother, Darrieux says, "She's an uninhibited character, who's not afraid of anything. She's politically incorrect and a straight talker. I love talking dirty, so I felt really comfortable with the character! What moved me most was the kindness with which Marjane described her. Quite obviously, her grandmother meant a lot to her."

 

Chiara Mastroianni faced the challenge of inhabiting the persona of Satrapi herself. "She was wonderful in easing the tension and the embarrassment you naturally feel when you're playing her life out in front of her. This was truly inspiring. When heavy moments came, she'd shrug them off with dirty jokes. When we recorded the last scene with her grandmother, where she tells of how she put Jasmine flowers in her bra, the atmosphere in the studio was wholly different to when we did the scene at school where she meant to beat up the little boy! When you spend time with her, you realize she's vibrant, yet demanding and decent."

 

Mastroianni continues: "I admire her freedom. She's not caught up in conventions; she went through so much at a very early age and remains insatiable. She's always eager to learn, and never lectures you. With Marjane, I had the feeling of being a teenager again, but at the same time, she's undoubtedly wise. It's an interesting combination."

 

Mastroianni portrays the collaboration between the co-directors as equally unique. "They couldn't have managed without each other on this film. They were totally inseparable. They made all the decisions together. They have admiration and respect for each other and are true friends. They're both very demanding, but for good reasons. Ego is never an issue. All that matters is the film."

 

 

 

 

Interview with Chiara Mastroianni - Voice of Marjane as Teenager and Young Adult

 

You called Marjane Satrapi to be part of Persepolis...

 

Yes. I had read all four Persepolis novels and loved them. The combination of design, humor, hindsight and self-mockery, with no trace of self-indulgence or victimization was irresistible. I'd been thinking about doing a voice in an animated feature for quite some time, so when my mother mentioned Persepolis to me, I called Marjane and asked to do a voice test.

 

How did you first meet?

 

We met at my place. At the time, her voicemail message was quite off putting. I thought "Considering all she's been through, she must be very tough!" When I saw her large glasses and her smile, I thought there was something punkish about her, and I knew we'd get along fine. I'd only thought about Marjane's adult voice, but she told me she wanted the same person to do Marjane as a teenager. All the more reason to do the tests! I became even more afraid when I realized I had to do the voice-over with no visual back-up. We worked together and then did a recording session. Thankfully, she found my voice convincing enough to carry on with me. During rehearsal we tried to hone my voice, to make it sound more subtle and rich.

 

Was it stressful or inspiring playing Marjane?

 

Both! At the beginning, it was a bit stressful. I imagine it must have been strange for her too after having written the books by herself, she suddenly finds strangers interfering with her work. I could tell that certain scenes reminded her of emotional memories, and sometimes I found that testing. Yet, I think she toned them down, both in the books and in the film.

 

When we recorded the last scene with her grandmother, (where she tells of how she put Jasmine flowers in her bra), the atmosphere in the studio was wholly different to when we did the scene at school where she meant to beat up the little boy! When you spend time with her, you realize she's vibrant, yet demanding and decent. She was wonderful in easing the tension and the embarrassment you naturally feel when you're playing her life out in front of her. This was truly inspiring. When heavy moments came, she'd shrug them off with dirty jokes. It was very helpful to be around Marjane between the first and second recording sessions to get a better sense of who she was.

 

What impressed you the most about her?

 

Her freedom. She's not caught up in conventions; she went through so much at a very early age and remains insatiable. She's always eager to learn, and never lectures you. With Marjane, I had the feeling of being a teenager again, but at the same time, she's undoubtedly wise. It's an interesting combination. When she's fond of you, she showers you with affection and attention, yet, she has clear-cut ideas about what she wants. She's afraid of nothing and is a real go-getter. She's like a magnet both in life and in work.

 

What was the funniest part of the recording?

 

Recording the theme "Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky. Marjane asked me to sing it out of tune. I asked her to sing it first, and we both broke loose and had a lot of fun.

 

What was the most difficult part?

 

Finding the right tone and rhythm for the voice-over. The scenes with dialogue weren't a problem, it was the narrating that was more difficult. It was a really different skill, and was hard with no back up. This was the part we worked on most, as soon as the footage was available, as I wanted to be able to hone my voice to match the pace of the scenes better.

 

Do you remember the first time you met Vincent?

 

Not exactly, but it had to be at the studio. He's a shy guy who needs to be won over. At the beginning, he was a bit wary of me, however, it only strengthened my determination to do the voice tests. In the end, his misgivings helped me do a good job. When he was eventually convinced, I knew for a fact it was for good reason. I like Vincent's hard-boiled personality. I believe they make a great team together because they're on equal footing. He has a strong sense of propriety too. I looked for Vincent Paronnaud's graphic novels everywhere, but they were nowhere to be found! It took me weeks before I found out his penname was

Winshluss...

 

How complementary are they?

 

They couldn't have managed without each other on this film. They were totally inseparable. They made all the decisions together. They have admiration and respect for each other and are true friends. They're both very demanding, but for good reasons. Ego is never an issue, all that matters is the film. For the rest of us, nothing could have been more inspiring than such freedom and rigor. Marjane and Vincent wanted to make Persepolis in an "old-fashioned" way, based on actual drawings and not computer images. For all of us, it turned into an amazing challenge, both artistically and professionally.

 

Your mother has often portrayed Danielle Darrieux's daughter, but it was the first

time you played her granddaughter ...

 

Yes, I liked the idea. The funny thing is, I played opposite Danielle again soon after - on Pascal Thomas' L'Heure Zero. That was when we really got to know each other. She's stunning. I can understand why Marjane wanted to work with her. There's a connection between them. Danielle also has a strong sense of self-mockery and propriety. There's a spark in her eyes, and she always has a positive and inquisitive approach to others

 

What memory of Marjane and Vincent will stay with you?

 

It was definitely the time when we were recording the voices in the studio with Marc, Stéphane and Denis. They were all working on snippets of dialogue and on the sound effects. Marjane was playing around touching the sound effects console and playing with the props. I also remember Marjane and Vincent having fun making short, crazy films on their cell phones! They looked like whizkids cooking something up!

 

 

 

 

Interview with Catherine Deneuve - Marjane's Mother

 

How did you find out about Marjane Satrapi?

 

I read her comic strip a while back in Libération. Then I read all four Persepolis novels which I just loved. I like her graphic black and white visuals and the way she uses them, it's totally surreal and realistic at the same time. I like her spirit. I like her freedom. I like her story which she tells with wistfulness, humor, self-mockery and emotion. The freshness, ambition and success of her work, as well as the strong statement she makes, reminded me of Art Spiegelman's Maus. Anyway, it's a unique graphic novel. I loved it so much, I even said in a newspaper that Marjane was my favorite fiction writer. When I was asked by Vogue magazine to act as Chief Editor for a special issue three years ago, I asked her to come on board. She did a wholly unconventional one-page comic strip which I found hilarious.

 

Do you remember the first time you met?

 

We had a cup of coffee together, and I noticed that she smoked as much as me! She's a wonderful person, bright and very funny. I love her oriental charm and her sweetness that's tinged with self-mockery. She's both very cheerful and deep. Her take on life is very particular. When she asked me to be her mother's voice in the film, I instantly said yes because it was her and because I'd wanted to do a voice for an animated feature for a long time.

 

Can you tell me about the recording?

 

Marjane's script was terrific. It was not only very true to the books, but it also included a genuinely cinematic narrative. We met at the studio, and she played and directed opposite me. She was always there for me, paying close attention. She was very specific, yet gave me a great deal of freedom playing the scenes with no visual back-up or specific schedule.

 

What is your take on the mother's character?

 

She's just like every other mother dealing with their teenage daughter, facing life and its challenges. She's understanding, caring and concerned. Persepolis also adds a new chapter to a film tradition as I once again play Danielle Darrieux's daughter. It's now become inevitable, and Chiara plays my own daughter!

 

What memory of Marjane Satrapi will stay with you?

 

She's a smooth talker. She says one thing with her voice and something different with her eyes...

 

 

 

 

Interview with Danielle Darrieux - Marjane's Grandmother

 

Were you surprised when Marjane Satrapi called you to be the grandmother's voice in Persepolis?

 

Yes, nobody had ever asked me to do something like this before. When Marjane came to tell me about her project, I was immediately won over by her energy, her good nature, her wide eyes...She explained that she wanted to record the voices before she started work on the drawings, so that our acting could match the characters' expressions. She had dreamed I would play her grandmother, Catherine Deneuve her mother and Chiara Mastroianni herself. I liked the idea and said yes right away.

 

Did she ask you to read the script?

 

No, but she gave me the books which I devoured and loved! I like her drawing, her characters' expressions, the way she plays graphically, say, with the headscarves and the way she draws herself with a mole, which she beautifully makes fun of. Her story has the gift of making people laugh and cry. What she's been through is terrifying. When you've gone through so much and can still laugh about it, that's really unique. That's probably what gives her that wide eyed look of kindness, energy, and consideration.

 

What moves you about the grandmother?

 

She's an uninhibited character, who's not afraid of anything. She's politically incorrect and a straight talker. I love talking dirty, so I felt really comfortable with the character! What moved me most was the kindness with which Marjane described her. Quite obviously, her grandmother meant a lot to her.

 

How did you want to play the part?

 

Just as Marjane describes her in her books. Not any differently. When you have a writer that writes so movingly and inspiringly, all you have to do is act. She is definitely a writer through and through.

 

Can you tell me about the recording?

 

I recorded my voice before the other actors. When I came to the studio, I'd only read her books, so I knew more or less what it was about, but hadn't yet been given a script. Marjane sat next to me and before each take, she'd brief me on the situation, giving me my lines and playing opposite me to stand in for the other roles. I don't like rehearsing much, usually going by instinct, so with Marjane I enjoyed relying on that immensely. Marjane knew exactly what she wanted, I readily did what she asked, and it went very quickly. Later, Marjane and her producers showed me a short excerpt of the film, when I saw the grandmother's face and heard my voice. It was an odd feeling, but I was really surprised. I thought it matched perfectly!

 

You once again play Catherine Deneuve's mother...

 

It's become a regular thing to play mother and daughter, although we don't look that much alike. What may bring us together is our way of handling drama in a light-hearted fashion. Her voice remains calm, she doesn't indulge in saccharine expressiveness. Her acting is both deep and light-hearted. Her voice and her eyes are so expressive. The three of us have been building a kind of film mythology, passed down through generations. After PERSEPOLIS, where Chiara plays my granddaughter, we were reunited for Pascal Thomas' upcoming film. I got to know her better and I've grown very fond of her.

 

What memory of Marjane will stay with you?

 

I once asked her to meet me in a hotel room. It so happened that there were bars on the window. When she left, I thought it would be fun to say goodbye from behind the bars. It felt like a scene from Persepolis. We both had a great laugh.

 

Interviews by Jean-Pierre Lavoignat, March-April 2007.

 

Read more about the film at:

http://www.sonyclassics.com/persepolis/

 

Watch The TRAILER (QUICKTIME)
www.sonyclassics.com/syndication/trailers/persepolis/Persepolis_Trailer1_300.mov
www.sonyclassics.com/syndication/trailers/persepolis/Persepolis_Trailer2_300.mov

 


Related Articles:

 

Persepolis to open across U.S. on December 25
Persepolis is the poignant story of a young girl in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It is through the eyes of precocious and outspoken nine year old Marjane that we see a people's hopes dashed as fundamentalists take power - forcing the veil on women and imprisoning thousands.
 

Interview with Marjane Satrapi - Director/Author of Persepolis
Do you miss Iran? Of course. It's my homeland and always will be. If I were a man, I'd say France is my wife, but Iran is my first love and will always linger with me. Obviously, I can't forget all those years when I'd wake up with a view of an 18,700-foot high, snowcovered mountain that dominated Tehran and my life...
 

The Filmmakers talk about PERSEPOLIS
Interviews with Co-Writer and Directors Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud, Art Director Marc Jousset, and Composer Olivier Bernet

... Payvand News - 01/04/08 ... --



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