Movie Review: Chicken With Plums
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
"Chicken With Plums," the first live-action film of French filmmaker Marjane Satrapi ("Persepolis"), is an agony of bad plotting and whimsical, lifeless scenes. It is the story of a man who, disappointed by life and love, decides to go to bed and die. And the movie does the same - only it dies a full hour before the finish.
Mathieu Amalric plays Nasser Ali, a violinist who does little in the film but smoke and look forlorn, and that's even when he's happy. At the start of the film, he is looking for a violin to replace his old one, but he can't find anything that's quite right, and so decides he doesn't want to live anymore. At this point, a voice-over narrator steps in and gives the audience what seems, for a moment, like very good news: We are told that Nasser died eight days later, and so we get ready for a new main character and a new focus, someone more promising and lively .
But no. He dies in eight days, all right, but the movie, instead of moving forward, goes back in time to render in detail every little thing - every last forlorn, sad-sack, smoke-filled, depressing and deadly dull thing - he did over the course of those eight miserable days. Satrapi and her co-writer and co-director Vincent Paronnaud start at day one, and by the time they get to day three, it becomes an open question who will slip into a coma first, the protagonist or the audience.
Indeed, the approach seems so misbegotten that the temptation is to look for some higher purpose or master strategy . In fact , "Chicken With Plums" offers a promise it never fulfills.
Rating: PG-13, for drug use, violence, sensuality, smoking. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. Theater: Arbor.