Movie review: 'Chicken With Plums' an inventive dish
The lyrical fantasy "Chicken With Plums" is, like the recipe for which it's named, a meaty dish with sweet-and-sour overtones.
This is the first live-action film by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, the team who made the riveting 2007 animated film "Persepolis." Like that film, this one is adapted from Satrapi's graphic novel and is set in her former home, Iran.
But where "Persepolis" was a gritty memoir of a girl's growing up modern in a land rejecting Western modernism, "Chicken With Plums" is squarely set both in the past and the fantasy world of a dying man's dreams.
It begins with a renowned violinist, Nasser Ali Khan (played by the French star Mathieu Amalric), who has given up the will to make music. So he decides to go to bed and die there. Eight days later, he does. (This information is given very early in the film.) What Satrapi and Paronnaud show next is how those eight days proceed.
Each day in bed, Nasser Ali contemplates what led him to want his life to end. We see his loveless marriage to the sensible Faringuisse ("Pulp Fiction's" Maria de Medeiros), who supports the family when Nasser Ali's music cannot. We meet his imperious mother (Isabella Rossellini) and his aged music teacher (Didier Flamand), a master who praises his student's technique but hears no soul no "sigh" in his music.
We also see the woman, Iran (Golshifteh Farahani), who gave him that sigh.
Satrapi and Paronnaud, in flights of cinematic fancy, also take the story forward past Nasser Ali's death. We witness what becomes of his daughter, Lili (played as a jaded adult by Chiara Mastroianni), and his son, Cyrus (played by Christian Friedel, in a hilarious parody of American sitcoms). And, in Nasser Ali's nightmares, we see his encounter with the angel of death (Edouard Baer).
Amalric, best known to Americans from "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and as the last Bond villain (in "Quantum of Solace"), gives a performance that leaps from the melancholy to rapturous. At the same time, he anchors Satrapi and Paronnaud's magical visual range and an emotional journey that zips from ecstasy to tragedy and back again.
'Chicken With Plums'
A melancholy musician waits for the end in this visually stunning drama from the makers of "Persepolis."
Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.
When • Opens Friday, Oct. 12.
Rating • PG-13 for some drug content, violent images, sensuality and smoking.
Running time • 93 minutes; in French, with subtitles.