Monday, 16 April, 2012 - 07:13

Film review: Poulet Aux Prunes (Chicken with plums)

by Laura French

So what’s this French film about? Weird name, I hear you cry... actually, it’s not really about chicken (poulet in French) at all, and nor is it about prunes!  It’s about a man devoted to music, a man for whom his violin means the world and for whom that world is destroyed when his bitter wife smashes it in a rage.  When this musician, named Nasser Ali Khan (played by Mathieu Almaric), finally loses the will to live, he decides to lock himself up in his room and await his death.  As we follow his final days, we learn through a series of flashbacks, mingled with glimpses of the future, about the story behind his sadness – essentially the tragic end of his love affair with a beautiful Iranian, when she one day fails to recognise him. 

Both serious and comical, the film combines the sad with the slapstick.  Slow, moving music sets the scene to what unfolds to be both a tragic drama and a hilarious comedy, as quiet scenes combine with silly moments to create a genre I’ve never before experienced.  Poulet aux Prunes is visually appealing, artistically created, and undeniably eye-catching... but, above all, it is quite simply bizarre. 

This odd combination between comedy and tragedy came as no surprise, since the film is actually based on a comic strip.  Marjane Satrapi, director, somewhat magically transcribes cartoon to screen, combining fantasy with reality to create a typically French, aesthetic piece of art, which works as a treat for the senses.  So for those of you that enjoy cartoons, the film may well appeal, since there are several instances when the screen is suddenly transformed into an imaginary world of evil demons...

For me, though, the combination of cartoon snippets with what would otherwise be realistic drama caused me a little confusion to say the least!  The film might have moved me to hysterics, but whether that was a hysterics of laughter or of sadness, I couldn’t say...
So at first, I was ambiguous about this film.  It left me with a sense of sadness, mixed in with a sense that it was all just a big joke.  I would have said that someone looking for a deep movie experience might want to give Poulet aux Prunes a miss.  Now I’ve thought about it, though, I’d say it’s probably the opposite. If you want to see something that’s just a fun bit of animation, go and see Tintin.  If you want to really think, go and see this film; because I realised after watching it that maybe my first judgements were a bit unfair, that maybe Poulet aux Prunes is more than just a silly reconstruction of a comic strip that got it’s genres confused.  Looking at it now, I see this French production as an artistic creation whose symbolism and beauty outweigh the silly.  It breaks down the barriers between what’s real and what isn’t. That gave me hope for a world where anything can happen!


Do you prefer big American blockbusters or European cinema? Have you seen any good films recently?

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