Nasser Ali Khan (Mathieu Amalric) is a famous Iranian violinist; whose life takes a dark turn after his violin is destroyed. Unable to find a suitable substitute for his invaluable instrument Nasser Ali decides there’s only one thing left to do: Die. After considering different methods to end his own life, he decides that waiting for death to come to him is the one that makes most sense. In the eight days preceding his earthly departure Nasser Ali reflects upon his life, his art and the love of his life. In what seems like a series of fever dreams the filmmakers progressively let the viewer in on Nasser Ali’s mind and life story.
Whimsical, sweet and romantic Poulet aux prunes is a thoughtfully composed film, with a lot of heart and a typically French sense of humor. As these kinds of films go it is more interested in the little character quirks and moments they share with each other, rather than big action or plot. The charming screenplay and great command in the directing department make this film a mature effort, that reveres and references foreign fare: Namely Italian cinema and the beautiful Sofia Loren. The film is sustained by strong performances by all of its lead actors. For a film about a musician the score of Chicken with Plums is great towards the end and climax of the story, but in one instance it felt they were imitating Steve Jablonsky’s My Name is Lincoln. Story-wise I think the ending is a bit abrupt and somewhat unresolved. The pieces of the story all come together nicely, but you can’t help feeling that something’s missing.
As someone that values visually compelling films Chicken with Plums and Christophe Beaucarne’s (DP on Mr. Nobody and Michel Gondry’s upcoming Mood Indigo) cinematography definitely stand out; same goes for the art direction. It’s especially fascinating how the filmmakers integrate animation and different filming techniques to craft the over-stylized, almost exaggerated scenery. The almost “artificial” mise en scène is appropriate for the big emotions and ‘larger than life’ characters portrayed. Speaking of visions, I have to mention the heartbreakingly beautiful Golshifteh Farahani. I wish the story would revolve more around her character and the love story, because to me it is the most interesting part of the film.
Moviegoers that don’t mind subtitles and enjoy romantic films like Amélie (2001), Big Fish (2003) and The Fall (2006) will certainly appreciate this one.
Rating on First Viewing
(on our Sony Bravia screen, with my brother)
7.5 out of 10