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‘Plums’ up for Marjane Satrapi

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Satiating journey: The magical “Chicken With Plums” tells the tale of a dying man (Mathieu Amalric) in scenes from his past — and future — life. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Satiating journey: The magical “Chicken With Plums” tells the tale of a dying man (Mathieu Amalric) in scenes from his past — and future — life.

Marjane Satrapi already has documented her incredible life story about her escape from Iran, schooling in Vienna and subsequent life in Paris in the graphic novel and animated movie “Persepolis.”

Now, in her wonderful second feature film “Chicken with Plums,” opening this week, she turns to other matters: life, love and food.

In the film, violinist Nasser Ali Khan — whose favorite dish is chicken with plums — decides to die.

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From his deathbed, the film flashes back to Nasser Ali’s (Mathieu Amalric) passionate, tragic romance with lovely Irane (Golshifteh Farahani), and his unsatisfying marriage to the more practical but loving Faranguisse (Maria de Medeiros); it even flashes forward to the strange fates of their two children.

Satrapi, who visited The City earlier this year during the San Francisco International Film Festival, says, “In life you have different sources of pleasure: falling in love, making love, smoking, drinking, whatever. I can survive without smoking or making love. I would be miserable, but I would live. But if you don’t eat, when even this last pleasure is finished, that’s the end of life.”

“Chicken with Plums” spreads out luxuriously in many directions, with magical sequences, animation, comedy and more.

“Memories never come in a chronological way,” Satrapi says. “Some are minimalist and some come with lots of details. But a whole life is whatever we see and it’s also whatever we would not see, and what we will not see after our death.”

One major theme in the film is artistic balance. Nasser Ali isn’t a truly great violinist until after he falls in love with Irane, opens his heart for the first time, and loses her.

As someone who once slept on the streets, Satrapi knows that an artist must live something to express something. Unfortunately, in Nasser-Ali’s case, the pain totally encompasses him.

“If you have too much suffering, you don’t create. You just go to the mental hospital,” she says. “But at the same time, some days I wake up, and I feel very pretty and happy and the sun is shining. These are the days I don’t go to my studio.”

Yet Satrapi loves her character precisely for his weaknesses: “What really amazes me is that, despite everything, he’s capable of many beautiful things.”

Deeper artistic concerns aside, is chicken with plums a real dish? “Yes,” Satrapi says. “I do make it myself and it’s really tasty!”