Turning The Spotlight On...Chicken With Plums

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Generally, if a studio sends me a DVD screener, I won't bother to review it.
    I believe that the majority of members who read this forum have more interest
    in purchasing the Blu-ray version of any newly released film. However, when
    a studio sends something interesting to me that is only available on the DVD
    format, I often make exceptions.
    Chicken With Plums is a film from French director Marjane Satrapi, who with
    her partner Vincent Paronnaud (the team that brought us Persepolis) has created
    a live-action fairytale highlighted with interesting (but overly silly) animated sequences.
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    The story centers around Nassar Ali (Mathieu Amalric), one of the most loved musicians
    of his time. When his wife breaks his most precious possession -- his violin -- Nassar
    loses all interest in life and makes a decision to go to bed and die. As he awaits his
    death, flashbacks of his youth give background to the meaning of his most cherished
    instrument and the love he has lost.
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    Unfortunately, as Nassar resigns himself to death early on in the film, the story seems
    to die with him. What we have left are puzzle pieces that are slowly brought together
    through disjointed animated and CGI-filled flashbacks/flash-forwards. One flashback
    shows us how Nassar's Mother pushes him to marry a woman he will never love (Maria
    de Medeiros). Another introduces us to the woman he falls in love with but cannot have
    (Golshifteh Farahani). In another sequence, Nassar converses with the Angel of Death
    (Edward Baer). While many would probably consider these sequences quite clever, I
    found them to be often overly silly and sometimes, downright dull. Perhaps the most
    enchanting momentsof this film are those that take place within the wonderful set pieces
    which depict 1950s Iran, with its narrow streets lined with small shops, give this film a
    nice taste of nostalgia.

    I was very surprised to find that Sony was limiting its release of Chicken with Plums
    to DVD. Did the studio not have enough confidence in its product to offer a Blu-ray
    counterpart? Certainly, the visual styles of Satrapi and Paronnaud would be more
    eye-popping on Blu-ray than it is here. This is the kind of film that requires higher
    resolution, and Sony's choice to dumb it down to 480p has got me scratching my head.
    It's rather difficult for me to actually rate the transfer quality of this film as my eyes
    have become accustomed to Blu-ray over the years. All the flaws of watching a film
    like this on DVD immediately surface. If this were 7 years ago, I would be giving this
    transfer the highest recommendation. Compression artifacts, noise and grain are minimal.
    However, overall image quality is diminished by the limited resolution causing a picture
    that seems overly soft and colors that come across as somewhat muddy rather than vibrant.
    The film's 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack sounds well balanced, with clear dialogue in
    the front and ambient effects delegated to the rear channels. In all, a suitable sonic
    presentation that translates well here.
    Special Features on the disc include a commentary with Directors Marjane Satrapi &
    Vincent Paronnaud. There is also a Tribeca Q&A with the same team included here.
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    I may be giving Chicken With Plums more of a bad rap than it deserves. I generally
    gravitate to Sony Classic's line of foreign films (which is why you'll see me reviewing
    many of them here), and I seldom walk away dissatisfied with anything I see. I suppose
    if I were more familiar with Persepolis, I would have more appreciation for this movie.
    Instead, while there's a considerable amount of sweetness to be found here, I find it
    hard to overcome what seems to be a film trying to hard to be clever and in the end,
    falling flat.
     

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