CHICKEN WITH PLUMS – The Review
Review by Barbara Snitzer
Chicken With Plums (Poulet Aux Prunes) is an enchanting confection of a movie. I was unexpectedly delighted by this unique movie. It is the follow-up film from co-directors Iranian Marjane Satrapi and Frenchman Vincent Paronnaud to their 2007 film Persepolis, a film I did not see (despite hearing good buzz) as I’m not big on animation; this movie has made me reconsider.
My biggest complaint about this movie is with its title: it refers to a trifling detail in the film, and waiting to discover its significance was distracting. Also, it sounds like a movie about food, non? And even if it were about food, in an age of foodies and Top Chef, it’s not an appealing dish. It’s hard to believe that the imagination is on display on screen couldn’t come up with something more appealing.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about this movie because I’m not capable of describing the visual feast of imaginative storytelling; if you want a sample, click here.
You may recognize the film’s star, Mathieu Almaric, from a French movie that was quite successful stateside, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Even if you don’t, you might want to get to know him- we’ll be seeing a lot more of him.
M. Almaric has taken the crown from Gerard Depardieu as the greatest French actor of his generation, and he could easily have the international career that eluded M. Depardieu. As he speaks impeccable English, he’s appeared in the American-produced films Munich, Quantum of Solace, and the recently-released Cosmopolis. For a French actor to have won these roles is quite an achievement that may be hard for an American audience to appreciate.
Even the more-handsome French-American actor Jean-Marc Barr, who speaks perfect American-accented English, has not mounted this summit. When I met him in person, I asked why he worked more in French films than American ones. He told me that he’d chosen to, since France makes more interesting movies. He’s right, but I didn’t believe him for a second. I mean no disrespect to M. Barr, whose kindness in talking to me I would like to acknowledge. Being a famous star in your country is not the same as making it in America. Ask Antonio Banderas (who still makes Spanish films).
He also has a bright future as a director. His directorial debut feature film, Tourne (On Tour), won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. Interesting bit of trivia: his mother was born in Poland in the same village as Roman Polanski’s family. curieux.
The film is set in 1958, in an imaginary Tehran. Almaric plays Nasser-Ali Khan, a virtuoso violinist who has lost the will to live for reasons I will not reveal. He decides to die; the film recounts the eight days it takes him to shrug off his mortal coil. Voila. Apart from a wonderful diversion wherein Nasser-Ali is given a glimpse of his son’s future life, I’m not revealing any more.
The cast, all French-speaking is very international and includes Portuguese actress Maria de Medeiros. Italian-born Isabella Rossellini, Jamel Debouze, (a comedy star in France) from Morocco, and the stunningly beautiful Iranian Golshifteh Farahani. Ms Farahani had been a major movie star in Iran. But after appearing in an American movie, Body of Lies, she was banned from leaving the country. Fortunately, she found a way to leave and now lives in Paris.
3 of 5 Stars
CHICKEN WITH PLUMS opens in St. Louis today at Landmark’s Plaza Frontenac Theater
Read more of Barbara’s reviews at her blog Le Movie Snob HERE