Since his beloved violin was broken, Nasser Ali Khan, one of the most renowned musicians of his day, has lost all taste for life. Finding no instrument worthy of replacing it, he decides to confine himself to bed to await death.
Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple's bond of love is severely tested.
A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer's disease.
A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.
An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
Bryce Dallas Howard
Nasser-Ali, a talented musician, loses the will to live after his wife breaks his beloved violin during an argument. He searches for a replacement, and finding none that sounds quite the same, he vows to die. Eight days later, he does. This is the story of his last week of life, where we see flashbacks and flash forwards of his previous life and his children's futures. We also see appearances of a nude Sophia Loren as well as the angel of death, Azarel. As we see his life, we realize exactly why he chose to end it and the profundity of this choice. Written by
Following up the massive success of their animated debut Persepolis, directors Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi teamed up again for another adaptation of one of Satrapi's graphic novels, this time making a live-action confection out of the winsome fable Chicken with Plums. Whereas Persepolis was an autobiographical affair for Satrapi, Plums is the fictional story of Nasser Ali (Mathieu Amalric), a renowned violinist whose heart is destroyed when his instrument is broken and he can find no worthy replacement for it. Deciding that life is no longer worth living without being able to perform, he confines himself to bed and awaits the arrival of death to remove him from this world.
It's an interesting premise for sure, but my chief problem with Chicken with Plums is that the directors don't seem to know what to do once this is all established. Ali stays in his room for the entirety of the picture but as the story darts back and forth between flashbacks, fantasies and several different styles (including a particularly joyful animated sequence) it never really feels like it picks up any narrative momentum and I was never able to invest myself emotionally in Ali as a character. Amalric is one of my most favorite actors working today (or ever, frankly) and he provides a capable performance at the center, but half of the time the focus of the film isn't even on him and I felt like the directing team were lost within their own imagination.
By the time they bring it all back into focus with what felt as though should have been the key arc all along, we had spent so much time in other areas with other characters that I wasn't remotely engaged by the film any longer. For something with a relatively brief 93-minute running time it drags on through most of the middle section due to this and despite their hardest attempts to give it the kind of quirky energy of an ace director like Jean-Pierre Jeunet (much of the atmosphere feels practically cribbed from his work), the weakness of the narrative makes it too much of a struggle to pick up any steam.
That's not to say that Chicken with Plums is all bad, though. Despite the flaws in adapting the story to the screen, Paronnaud and Satrapi remain impressive visual artists and Plums is an absolute feast for the eyes. Whether it's the frame-worthy cinematography, the unique and constantly unpredictable film editing styles or the luscious production design, there is always something going on that can keep the eye entertained -- even if the heart and mind are not. Overall, this one definitely lands as a big disappointment for me but there's still enough pleasure in some elements of it for me to say that it may be worth watching for some out there.
Chicken with Plums is certainly a pleasure to look at, I just wish I had been connected to it remotely on any other level. Paronnaud and Satrapi certainly do have a knack for sumptuous visuals though, and I'd be interested in seeing what they could perhaps do with a script written by someone else. Hopefully we'll get the chance to see that one day.
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