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Turning The Spotlight On...Chicken With Plums


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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

Ronald Epstein

    Studio Mogul



  • 40,281 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 03 1997

Posted February 04 2013 - 04:43 AM





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,

falling flat.






 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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