Review of Chicken With Plums

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Since his beloved violin was broken, Nasser Ali Khan, one of the most renowned musicians of his time, loses his will to live. Finding no instrument worthy of replacing it, he decides to confine himself to bed and await death.
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Movie Review: "Chicken With Plums"

-- Rating: PG-13 (for some drug content, violent images, sensuality, and smoking)
Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 26, 2011
Directed by: Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi
Genre: Drama

"Chicken With Plums" is a captivating comedy-drama portraying a renowned violinist who simply wants to die after his instrument is ruined. Almost all people love something too much, whether it is a hobby they have practiced their entire life, a cherished memento, or another addiction. That love can and often does go too far, but when it is not only a hobby but also a lifestyle, one can easily see why this happens. In "Chicken With Plums," the audience finds itself captivated in the life of a violinist in need of help.

"Chicken With Plums" is written and directed by Vincent Paronnaud ("Persepolis"), with Marjane Satrapi ("Persepolis") co-directing. Although mostly unknown to American audiences, Vincent Paronnaud directs several accomplished European stars in this film. The story, a heartfelt romance, is about a young violinist who loses the very thing that keeps him from death. Mathieu Amalric ("Quantum of Solace") plays a renowned musician who loses his taste for life after his wife breaks his violin. As he lies in his deathbed, he dreams of his youth, full of love, joy, and despair.

The film is not just a look at romance and heartbreak. It is a look into Iran's history. During the present day, the story is set in 1958 Tehran. The audience sees a quieter, less populated city than today.

When the audience sees Nasser's past, it is able to get a glimpse of the Shah's crackdown on leftists after the coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, and in the future, in 1979, it gets to see the Islamic Revolution. However, these historical facts are only a small part of the overall composition. The story relies on the story of Nasser, his love, and his violin.

The story of Nasser's life begins after his accomplishments and marriage. It is not until after his life turns sour once again that the audience is able to see his past and, perhaps, his future. During his past, we see the true Nasser, a romantic, caring person. During the present, we see a hardworking, grumpy, and somewhat sadistic artist. Luckily, we are able to see what transpires to make Nasser become such a man.

Like most young men, Nasser Ali Khan (Mathieu Amalric) fell in love. However, unlike most young lovers, he could not stop thinking about Irâne (Golshifteh Farahani, "Body of Lies") his entire life. After she left him for another man, he spends his time playing a violin to cover up his affliction. After time has passed, Nasser Ali Khan becomes a renowned artist and marries another woman. However, Nasser's mind is still on his young love. His mind does not allow him to be affectionate with his wife, which leads to arguments and eventually the breaking of his violin. With his violin broken, Nasser's life seems pointless. He simply lies in bed and hopes to die as he dreams of his youth and his love.

Irâne, a beautiful young woman, is the heart of Nasser's passion. She meets Nasser while he is studying music in Shiraz and quickly becomes the object of his affection. He not only falls in love with her looks, but he falls in love with everything about her. Sadly, after Nasser's courtship and their reciprocal love grows, Irâne's parents force her to marry an army officer. Heartbroken and in tears, the two leave each other forever.

Maria de Medeiros ("Pulp Fiction") plays Nasser's present-day wife Faranguisse. She is a loving and patient woman, but her patience can only go so far. When Nasser refuses to show her any affection, she gets angry. She grabs his most beloved violin and breaks it. She completely breaks Nasser's will to carry on living.

During one of Nasser's dreams, the Angel of Death (Edouard Baër, "Made in Paris") appears. The Angel of Death's narration gives the audience a look at Nasser's son and daughter's future. The future, set in 1978, plays out almost as a parody of itself but works within the context of the film.

"Chicken With Plums" is a magnificent movie. It captures the essence of historical Iran, along with the beauty of love and love lost. In many ways, the film gives hope that European romantic films will continue to strive and give audiences a diverse look at the genre. "Chicken With Plums" is well worth seeing.

Rating: 4 out of 5