Friday, 7 September 2012

REVIEW - CHICKEN WITH PLUMS


As sweet as its title, which is to say that it is sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. There is a fulfillment evident in every frame that indicates the care with which this film was made - understandable, since the writer-directors are Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parronaud, adapting from her graphic novel as they did with Persepolis five years ago. Each scene is a wonder in itself; perhaps the tonal variations between these scenes result in a less satisfying film than this might have been, but many moments of beauty add up to produce a quite beautiful film. The visual design is so delicate, as is the emotional structure - we learn the basic facts of the narrative very early, then Parronaud and Satrapi reveal each crucial little complexity one by one, imbuing our knowledge of both what has already transpired and what we know will transpire with a poignancy that, at first, may seem beyond this story's reach. The early scenes are blunt and progress briskly, but with a peculiar lack of energy or sense of wonder. But, as we are drawn deeper into the story, scenes seem to swoon past, all luscious colour and tragic romance. It's sumptuously shot, and such is the abundance of gorgeous imagery that this is surely equally attributable to the director of photography, visual effects team, production designer and directors, and the entire technical crew does an outstanding job. Mathieu Amalric is well-cast, although his charismatic wide eyes are deceptively distant - there's a constant feeling that he is either unwilling to share his character's thoughts and intentions, or is incapable of it. But what a joy the supporting cast is, and Maria de Medeiros in particular is quite touching; vitally so, as her tale is as important as his in establishing the rich emotional texture of this film. She gives her character an individual purpose. The scene involving the titular dish would be the most moving scene in any other film, but this one has many more, and most, if not all, of them will catch you by surprise. A sad but lovely film.