London Film Festival 2011: Chicken with Plums (Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi)

The directors of Persepolis (2007) bring their French and Iranian backgrounds together once again for Chicken with Plums (Poulet aux Prunes), the story of a man who decides to kill himself after his precious violin is broken.

Nasser-Ali (Mathieu Amalric), a passionate violinist, becomes suicidal when his violin is smashed during an argument with his wife (Maria de Medeiros: Bruce Willis’s girlfriend in Pulp Fiction ’94– I knew I recognised her!). The film is an exploration of why the violin was so special to him; the loss of a great love, and a countdown of the 8 days before his death showing his gradual deterioration.

The film integrates animation and has a strong comic art influence in the shot construction, choreography and cinematography (Vincent Paronnaud is a comic artist). There were comic interludes, puppets and animation features throughout, creating a very stylised theatrical drama. Pieces of the film reminded me of children’s books but others had a grown-up noir style.

The script was funny and charming and brought to mind Amelie, mostly because Jamel Debbouze acted in the film as the crazy opium-smoking owner of a wonder emporium/junk shop. I also appreciated the sense of Iran that was created, although I believed it to be a little romanticised.

Mathieu Amalric impressed, and made me remember how much I still want to see Wild Grass and On Tour. Last I saw of him was in Quantum of Solace ’08 (disgraceful as a Bond film) andMesrine ’08 (stunning, think I preferred K.I over P.E no 1).

However, although the acting was good, I felt removed from the action due to the style, and found it difficult to engage with the film. It is a strong film, and deserves recognition for design, but the story didn’t resonate with me and I felt it failed to make an impact.

In theatres October 26th.


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