Chicken With Plums Review

Love lost is never just lost love.

Especially for Nasser-Ali Khan, a man who is on a mission to find his one true love.

His violin.

More or less.

You see, Khan’s favourite violin met with an unfortunate accident at the hands of his long suffering wife and now our protagonist, who was once a virtuoso violinist, can no longer play.

It seems Khan’s passion and pleasure for music was destroyed along with his favourite fiddle.

He’s tried many other instruments, but it’s all in vain; they just don’t feel the same to him.

So Khan goes in search of a mythical violin that was supposedly played by the great Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart, but still he cannot recreate the magic his favoured instrument brought to him.

Being the tortured artist type, Khan realises there’s only one rational escape from this earthly torture.

So he decides to die.

As Khan awaits his own angel of death, getting his maison in order as he prepares to leave this mortal realm, he takes a look back over his life.

And we get to see the story of his life, how he became such an inspired musician yet a deeply flawed man to everything else in his life until we arrive at the true inspiration behind Khan’s music.

Chicken With Plums is written and directed by the same people behind the award winning animated feature Persepolis, which is all I needed to pique my interest.

And, as with all great stories, it’s essentially one of true love.

Combining classic elements of French cinema with a largely retrospective narrative, we slowly learn of Nasser-Ali Khan’s struggles to find the music within his soul, until the day he stumbles upon the key to unlocking the wonder inside of him.

Mathieu Amalric excels as Khan, with his seemingly wide eyed child trapped inside a slightly awkward man’s appearance providing the perfect vessel to convey his character’s musical journey.

After all, the life of a true artist is ultimately that of a self indulgent child.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though those who don’t choose this kind of existence often have difficulty grasping this.

Ably supported by some familiar faces from french cinema, Chicken With Plums stirs memories of the best cinematic qualities this country has to offer.

Its protagonist’s surreal flights into fantasy echoes Amelie, the musical score perfectly accentuates the visuals they accompany and, as you might expect from Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi, there’s even an animated montage to enjoy.

This creative team, who co wrote and directed Chicken With Plums, have created a perfect cinematic recipe that’ll leave you savouring its finish long after the credits roll and was my personal highlight from last year’s London Film Festival.

Of course, the ending might leave you wondering about this artist’s muse.

And why this had to be destroyed in the first place.

But boy, maybe that’s the point.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

January 2012