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J.A.A. Purves

Chicken With Plums (2011)

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(A&F link to Persepolis (2007))

Summary from The Guardian:

... Mathieu Amalric stars as Nasser Ali, a celebrated violinist, rattling around the music shops and opium dens of Persia in search of a replacement for his cherished Stradivarius. Ali is anguished, bereft, mourning both his busted violin and the soulful beauty (Golshifteh Farahani) he knew in his youth. So he takes to his bed and waits for the end, tugging the blankets over his head when Azrael, the angel of death decides to pay him a visit ...

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Both winsome and sophisticated, Chicken with Plums unfolds like a rich Persian carpet woven of memories and nostalgia in a colorful fantasy Iran of 1958, twenty years before the Islamic Revolution turned the country to somber grays. Though co-directors Marjane Satrapiand Vincent Paronnaud opt to turn Satrapi’s graphic novel into a live action film, fans of their animated debut Persepolis will find plenty of animation and CGI interludes to spice up the story, which is anyway shot in a magical style of non-realism. Potentially the film has somewhat wider appeal than its predecessor, being based not on far-away political history but on easily recognizable characters who seem more French than Iranian. Festival prizes and critical support should help signal its specialness.

... In reality, the crux of the film is supposed to be Nasser Ali’s ill-starred love story with the beautiful Iran (Golshifteh Farahani) when he was a violin student in Shiraz. It detonates too late and too improbably to be very emotionally effective or heart-rending. Still, the metaphor of a girl named Iran who prematurely ages into a sad, gray-haired granny will not be lost on alert viewers. Radiating the joyful, dewy freshness of a latter-day Louise Brooks, Farahani is up to the mythic role Iran is called on to play.

... The creativity of the artwork is fully matched by cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne's amusing lighting and Udo Kramer's magical sets (filmed in Studio Babelsberg), which view period Iran through the lens of poetry and the imagination.

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This film has grown in my memory since I screened it at TIFF last September.

Do not expect another Persepolis, though. The film is a different style...mostly live action.And it's roots in fable/allegory make it a less striking film. It took me awhile to realize it was a comedy and give myself permission to laugh. There is a serous under tone, of course, and the humor is more of a wry/droll kind than a slapstick...there is a deep melancholy that it shares with Persepolis that resonates strongly with me. My favorite comedies are the ones that are not exactly "dark" (which usually means cruel) but do have that desperation that comes from sadness.

I'm looking forward to seeing this again when it gets a wider release. While it didn't quite make my Top 10 last year, it did get an honorable mention, and, in retrospect, I'd have no qualms with swapping it for Le Havre or Dangerous Method both of which I liked about as much but was able to see multiple times.

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Iranian cinema is becoming one of the very most interesting things, for me, about the country of Iran. I'm starting to wonder if the art of film in Iran will do more to change the way people over there think about themselves and how the West thinks about them than anything else will in international politics.

Ken, when you saw this film, did you see the symbolism that it sounds like the film is trying to use in order to advance the idea that they have lost something? That possibility interests me just as much as the beauty of the film does.

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Ken, when you saw this film, did you see the symbolism that it sounds like the film is trying to use in order to advance the idea that they have lost something? That possibility interests me just as much as the beauty of the film does.

Oh, um, yes.

Funny story...Satrapi showed up at the screening of Persopolis when it screened at TIFF, though she did not speak (at the screening I attended). So I was pretty surprised she did the Q&A after Plums. The audience wasn't the most sophisticated, and there was one question that was along the lines of..."so, um, was there any significance to the fact that the woman's name was Iran? I thought that might be, you know, symbolic of...something?...maybe?...help me out?"

She was very patient in her responses. I tried to imagine Claire Denis answering the same question. That made me smile.

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