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Chicken with Plums

by Louise Adams
Tuesday Feb 26, 2013
Chicken with Plums

"Yeki boud, yeki naboud: there was someone, there was no one. This is how Persian tales begin." And this is how the latest film from writer/directors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, "Chicken with Plums," starts. This mix of live action and animation follows 2008's Oscar-nominated "Persepolis," the graphic novel turned into an animated feature recounting Satrapi's coming-of-age in France and Iran during their Cultural Revolution.

Set in Tehran, 1958, during an earlier coup, and performed in French with English subtitles, "Poulet aux Prunes" offers a circular narrative which chronicles famed musician Nasser-Ali Khan (Mathieu Amalric) as he searches to replace his beloved violin, which was smashed by his shrill and frustrated wife Faringuisse (Maria de Medeiros).

Nasser-Ali also doesn't get along with his well-meaning brother, Adbi (Erica Caravaca), or his children Lili (younger - Enna Balland; older - Chiara Mastroianni) and Cyrus (younger - Mathis Bour; older - Christian Friedel), or his chain-smoking mother Parvine (Isabella Rossellini), who continues to emanate a cloud of smoke even from the grave.

Instead, Nasser-Ali pines for the fiancée of his youth, the representationally-named Irâne ("Iran," played by Golshifteh Farahani), whom he was forbidden to marry. Yet his love lost inspires his divine playing, as recalled by his maître de musique (Didier Flamand), who counsels his pupil to "seize the sigh." Nasser-Ali's past, present and future are comic/strangely facilitated by Azraël, the Angel of Death (Edouard Baer).

The DVD special features include commentary with Satrapi and Paronnaud, and a Tribeca Q&A, also with the pair, where Satrapi notes that her film is about the complexity of the human soul, and that sometimes "there's no redemption. Some people are just assholes."

"Chicken with Plums"

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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