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.
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.
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.
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,