As they did with Persepolis (2007), codirectors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parronaud once again magically translate a graphic novel by the former to the big screen. Unlike Persepolis, which was entirely animated, Chicken with Plums, set in Tehran in 1958, is mostly live action. But the flesh-and-blood actors—including a heartbreaking Mathieu Amalric as Nasser-Ali Khan, a gifted violinist so miserable that he wills himself to die—appear before wondrously hyper-stylized sets, a mise-en-scène that imbues Chicken with Plums with the power of a parable. As Nasser-Ali takes to his bed, where he plans to expire, the film recalls the source of his sorrow, stretching all the way back to his childhood. The talented musician’s unhappy marriage to schoolteacher Faringuisse is recounted, as well as his distant relationship to his two young children (whose own fates are presented in droll flash-forward). Soon the real reason for Nasser-Ali’s anguish becomes clear: the rupture of his first—and only—great love affair, with a beautiful woman called Irâne. Her name assumes subtle allegorical significance in this deeply melancholic film, suggesting that she represents not only a lost love but a country misled.
“Not that “Chicken With Plums” is gloomy. Like its swooning, madly melodramatic musical score, the film takes an almost giddy pleasure in unhappiness, turning even pedestrian moments of boredom or discomfort into occasions for wild invention. The Angel of Death appears, as do other mythic and half-mythic figures, and the filmmakers indulge a vast repertory of cinematic and theatrical effects, using Expressionist lighting, garish parody and deep, rich tones that recall early hand-tinted Technicolor.”
A.O. Scott, New York Times
Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud
Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud. Based on the comic book by Marjane Satrapi.
Nasser-Ali Khan: Mathieu Amalric
Azraël: Edouard Baer
Faringuisse: Maria de Medeiros
Irâne: Golshifteh Farahani
Parvine: Isabella Rossellini
Lili: Chiara Mastroianni
RUNNING TIME 93’
PRODUCTION France, Germany, Belgium, 2011
FORMATS(S) 35, Blu-ray, DCP, DVD
Sony Pictures Classics