Chicken With Plums: Passionate Love and Whimsy

Narrated by Death himself, embodied by the archangel Azraël, Chicken With Plums is the second adaptation of comic book artist Marjane Satrapi's thematic trilogy of Iranian stories, adapted from the followup to her graphic novel Persepolis. (Codirectors Vincent Paronnaud and Satrapi also directed the Oscar-nominated adaptation of that book.) Nasser Ali Khan (Mathieu Amalric), a brilliant musician, is driven to suicidal despair when his wife (Maria de Medeiros) smashes his beloved violin (it's not a crazy, dramatic injustice — she actually has a square beef), and he waits eight days in his bed for death to come. As a young man, Nasser Ali fell in love with a woman named Irâne (the inhumanly beautiful Golshifteh Farahani), whose father refuses permission for their marriage. Her face haunts him for the rest of his life, and she looms over the extravagant fantasy sequences that compose Azraël's unauthorized Nasser Ali bio. Emulating film techniques of the French new wave, stupid American sitcoms, and storybook illustrations, the dreams and flashbacks conjured by Azraël are occasionally too vivid, like a high-wattage bulb in a small room, the sequences erring on the side of too much whimsy, overbroad comedy, and surplus emoting. But the evocation of passionate love is palpable, what with Amalric's sad longing and Farahani's Nobel Prize-winning face, and the honest undercurrent of melancholy keeps the whole thing from becoming unmoored.


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