Title: Chicken with Plums
Director: Vincent Paronnaud
Starring: Mathieu Almaric, Maria de Medeiros, Golshifteh Farahani
Based on the graphic novel of the same name–written and illustrated by Marjane Satrapi–Chicken with Plums tells a simple story, but one packed with her trademark humor, seriousness and surrealism. Perhaps even more so than Persepolis, Chicken with Plums is a film that meanders quite a bit, but it’s emotional power can’t be understated; it thoroughly details a musician’s history, future and present with great ease. Stylistically it’s very interesting and reminded me of other films with zany visuals, yet it brings its own sense of uniqueness into the mix, making it an enthralling experience filled with Satrapi’s wondrous imagination. If you’re looking for a straight forward piece of storytelling, this might not be the best place to look. However, if you’re looking to merely engage with characters, learn a little about yourself in the process and find amusement and humor in the quirky surrealism, this will undoubtedly be a joy to watch.
Starring in Chicken with Plums is the popular French actor Mathieu Almaric. He plays the young violinist, Nasser Ali Khan, who has fallen in love with Irane, a woman seemingly out of his reach. It’s difficult to summarize, as the film sort of weaves in and out of present day, mixing up the chronology. But what it lacks in plot (I say that like it’s a bad thing, and it’s not), it makes up in the way it brings out the inner life of our protagonist, Nasser. There’s a lot going on inside of his head, much of his time being preoccupied with finding a replacement for his broken violin, which has driven him to his bed, awaiting his death. He’s an unusual musician, whose love for his shattered violin is only outmatched by his love for Irane, a former lover. His longtime wife, Faranguiss, is loving and devoted to Nasser–though she misunderstands him to some degree, through no fault of her own.
Like Satrapi’s Persepolis, the protagonists always revel in simple pleasures: the children in Chicken with Plums opening their mouths for snowflakes, the sound of a violin at night and Marjane’s love for rock music (the outside culture). She takes it one step further in Plums, where Nasser remembers his love for large breasts, which is brought to life by disembodied, hilariously large breasts floating in midair. Directory Paronnaud did some great work with the meandering hallucinations. In one particularly great scene, Azrael has come to visit Nasser, who still lays on his death bed. Azrael is a horned shadowy figure with a biting sense of humor and wit.
Altogether Chicken with Plums is without a doubt a success. Whether it be the style, the humor, the surrealism or the heartfelt nature of the work, it’ll manage to please all audiences. Satrapi has a way with her characters. Her writing brings out the best and worse of everyone; where we’re able to see every flaw and every positive trait of our protagonists. It may seem common, but I assure you, it’s not. Every so often we have someone who can truly give their characters a sense of humanity, and she it here. I realize I’ve not said enough about Paronnaud, and like in Persepolis, he has somehow brought her works to the screen–it isn’t easy; something so surreal and meandering. It seems Satrapi and Paronnaud understand each other quite well.
Written by: Justin Webb