Mixing animated sequences with live-action, Marjane Satrapi’s new film Chicken with Plums tells the story of Nasser Ali-Khan, a virtuoso musician whose prized violin is destroyed and after unsuccessfully trying to replace it, chooses to die. Satrapi who’s best known for her graphic novel Persepolis, also adapted into a film, worked once again with French co-director Vincent Paronnaud and the duo married Satrapi’s style into their live-action adaptation through the use of some very stylized sequences and creative camerawork.
Using a man’s death to illustrate his life, brings to mind films such as Citizen Kane and American Beauty, and like those films, Satrapi’s leading character, Nasser Ali-Khan is flawed, and somewhat unsympathetic. The characters in the film are wonderfully varied and the cast does a marvelous job of interpreting their idiosyncrasies, notably Mathieu Amalric as Ali Khan and Isabella Rossellini as his overbearing mother.
Satrapi is above all else a terrific storyteller and the film blends quirky, dark comedic scenes with thought-provoking and often moving elements. While the pacing and aspects of the plot are not always what an American audience might be comfortable with, it’s always insightful and in the end uniting. The biggest issue American audiences are likely to take with the film is the very derogatory image of the American family that is seen briefly, and while the caricature is an understandable deduction when you’re aware of our media and international image, it’s frightening to see how we appear through French and Iranian eyes.