Persepolis was a deeply personal look at Satrapi's Iranian childhood, based on her own graphic novel of the same name. Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (it lost to Pixar's Ratatouille), the film was a strong contender in a very strong year for film. Sadly, their latest film, Chicken with Plums, falls short of the promise of its predecessor.
Also based on a graphic novel by Satrapi, Chicken with Plums tells the story of Nasser Ali Khan (Mathieu Amalric), a world famous Iranian violinist living in France whose life falls apart after the destruction of his favorite violin.
|Left to Right: Golshifteh Farahani as Irâne and Mathieu Amalric as Nasser Ali.|
Photo by ©Patricia Khan. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
Instead it plays out like Amelie-lite. While the film borrows heavily from Persepolis' distinctive use of light and shadow, it also borrows quite a bit from Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It's undeniably beautiful (mixing live action with animation in an occasionally breathtaking way), but it also feels awfully familiar, with the lighthearted mix of comedy and melancholy veering closer to Jeunet's territory than Satrapri's singular wit. Their are moments when her voice shines through, but they also rely too heavily on their stylistic inspirations. As a result the film feels disjointed and unbalanced, its flashback structure leaving the audience cold rather than involved. There's certainly a charm about it that reflects from Satrapi's wry sense of humor, but it never adds up to a cohesive whole until its final moments, by which time it is too late to fully enrapture its audience the way Persepolis did. Satrapi remains a unique talent, but Chicken with Plums is not exactly the best showcase of what she does best.
GRADE - ★★ (out of four)
CHICKEN WITH PLUMS | Directed by Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi | Stars Mathieu Amalric, Edouard Baer, Maria de Medeiros, Golshifteh Farahani, Eric Caravaca, Chiara Mastroianni, Isabella Rossellini | Rated PG-13 for some drug content, violent images, sensuality and smoking | In French w/English subtitles | Now playing in select cities. Opens Friday at the Park Terrace in Charlotte, NC.