Satrapi and Paronnaud delve into live-action with Chicken with Plums
by Stefan Dobroiu
04/09/2011 - Although animation is always present in Chicken with Plums [trailer], the second feature from Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, who are famous for their Cannes-awarded animation Persepolis is mainly live-action, with Mathieu Amalric, Maria De Medeiros, Golshifteh Farahani and Isabella Rossellini taking the leads in a truly international cast. Like Persepolis, which explores Satrapi's childhood in Iran and her years in Europe, Chicken with Plums is also inspired by real events. Nasser-Ali, Amalric's extremely gifted violin player who decides to die after his wife (De Medeiros) brakes his instrument, is based on the director's own graphic novel, inspired by her mother's uncle, also a musician. Set half a century ago in Iran, Chicken with Plums explores the past and also the future of its characters, in a colourful mixture of styles and a combination of animation and live-action.
The condition of the artist is the main interest of the directing duo. The audience will find out how Nasser-Ali became such a gifted violin player (love and grief are involved) and how his artistry makes his integration into a normal society and normal family life very difficult. Death, love, destiny, sorrow and dreams are shown as drawing the entire circle of Nasser-Ali's life, but Chicken with Plums does not feel at all like a circle at a scriptwriting level. There is chaos in the protagonist's adventurous life and his last eight days, which make the audience feel that they are watching a succession of short films, without the continuity needed for touching such important and relevant topics.
It appears like Satrapi and Paronnaud have paid more attention to the form of their second feature, but not to its substance - the film is beautifully shot and the actors are great, from Amalric's apparently selfish Nasser-Ali, to De Medeiros' disappointed Faringuisse, the protagonist's wife, and Isabella Rosselini's energetic leader of Nasser-Ali's family. With so much energy, interesting characters and amazing painted sets, the directors have many chances to impress large audiences and could win an Osella for technical contribution in Venice.