Free Haleh II

Shaul Bakhash, Clarence Robinson Professor of History, George Mason University, Brookings Institution senior fellow and husband of U.S. Middle East analyst Haleh Esfandiari, will be online Thursday, May 24, at 12:15 p.m. ET to discuss his wife’s detainment by Iranian intelligence for “crimes against national security” and personal and worldwide reaction to the situation.

I would also like to point out that the WaPo reporter Robin Wright has been doing an amazing job keeping this scholar’s plight in the news. She just reported that Kian Tajbakhsh – another Iranian-American scholar – has been detained in Tehran.

Persepolis Hits the Red Carpet

Persepolis Movie posterJust what we’ve all been waiting for: the animated version of Persepolis is being screened at Cannes this week, and that means it should get a general release later this year. There are some great trailers on Satrapi’s MySpace page that include some pretty sweet air guitar and “Eye of the Tiger” renderings by the protagonist. As we mentioned in our Chicken with Plums review, there was a great article on Satrapi in the Independent last year, and more recently, a really good article about Satrapi in the NYT in January (behind the great wall, unfortunately), that has a lot of details about the production, including this bit:

Persepolis with smoke

The voices were recorded before the animators began work, with Ms. Satrapi coaching the actors one on one. (Aghast at the prospect of bossing Ms. Deneuve around, she said, she downed three cognacs before directing the actress, who turned out to be ”funny and intelligent and a big smoker.”) Ms. Satrapi allowed herself to be recorded while acting out the physical gestures for each scene, to give the animation team a physical reference.

”We could do any number of movements to coordinate with the words,” said Christian Desmares, the chief animator, ”but Marjane wanted to really personalize each character, to use precise Iranian gestures. And we don’t know how to do that.”

Ms. Satrapi interjected: ”I play all the roles. Even the dog.”

Persepolis prison sceneThe stills from the movie posted to the official website suggest an interesting mix of styles, with the characters drawn faithfully in the mold of the original comics, and the settings and backgrounds done in a more ‘realistic’ mode, perhaps to give the action some dimensionality to move around in. The look it produces seems almost like a visual joke about bringing cartoons into live action films (à la Spiderman, etc.).

Chapati Review: Four Books by Etgar Keret

The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God & Other Stories (Toby Press, 2004), $12.95.
Jetlag (Toby Press, 2006), $12.95.
The Nimrod Flipout (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), $12.00.
Pizzeria Kamikaze (Alternative Comics, 2006), $14.95.

Pizzeria KamikazeIt’s one of those days when you find yourself in a new part of town with an hour to kill, and you decide you to sit in a cafe with a book, but you don’t have a book with you, so you walk around browsing in a few bookstores, looking for something you could actually sit and read in public, and to your surprise, you actually find something stunning that you have never heard of, and, frankly never even fantasized about. You notice the book because its cover is well-designed and when you flip through it, there is a lot of shiny silver. Since it’s a graphic novel, you can tell whether it’s good from its cover, because if you don’t like the layout, design and artwork, what’s the point of reading it, really? And this is an Israeli graphic novel, and that’s the part of the whole thing that you had never even fantasized about, besides, of course, all the shiny silver parts. You purchase the book and walk to a cafe, more quickly than you ought to when you are killing time, and sitting on a stool at a shiny silver bar, you order a solitary piece of raw fish, a glass of something cold and proceed to delve into Pizzeria Kamikaze, hoping you will not be terribly disappointed.

A few pages in, you find your expectations vindicated by an unbeatable premise:

Two days after I killed myself, I found a job at some pizza joint called ‘Kamikaze.’

The following sentences seal the deal:

…whenever they used to talk about life after death and go through the is-there-isn’t-there routine. I’d always imagine these beeping sounds, and people floating around in space and stuff. But now that I’m here, it reminds me of Tel Aviv. My German roommate says this place could just as well be Frankfurt. I guess Frankfurt’s a dump too.

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