In 2007, Iranian-born graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi made a splash with Persepolis, her wildly inventive animated memoir of growing up and getting out of her troubled country.
Chicken with Plums, which finds Satrapi directing once again with Vincent Paronnaud, marks a departure for the team in some ways: Theyre working with live actors, and expanding their cinematic language to encompass even more literary and artistic modes of expression.
But, at least allegorically, Chicken with Plums pulses with the same unrequited longing for an idealized Iran that gave Persepolis its mournful pull. French actor Mathieu Amalric plays Nasser-Ali Khan, an accomplished violinist in Tehran whose love for a woman named Iran (Golshifteh Farahani) sends him on an unlikely journey that is either deeply romantic or tragic, depending on your point of view.
Infused with the magical realism and fable-like simplicity of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, punctuated by Proustian memory and sharp shots of postmodern time and tonal shifts, Chicken with Plums is a whimsical, sad, diverting and altogether delightful exploration of how cinema can benefit, not only from glancing back at its own past, but by staying open to parallel forms of presentation.
As a narrator explains how Nasser-Ali came to take to his bed for eight days, the story unfolds in scenes as stylized as the panels of a vivid graphic novel.
Soaked in an ambered palette and swaying to Olivier Bernets lilting, lyrical score, Chicken with Plums lives up to its title: Its a feast for the senses, and the imagination of anyone who knows the pain of desperately desiring that which can never be.