When I spoke with Marjane Satrapi on April 30, 2012, one of the many questions I had for her was why she used live-action instead of animation when she adapted CHICKEN WITH PLUMS from her graphic novel of the same name. Her previous film, PERSEPOLIS, was also adapted from her graphic novel, but echoed its distinctive artwork when she brought it to the screen with co-writer and co-director Vincent Parronaud. This film, the second in her Tehran Trilogy, is less overtly political, but no less trenchant in its depiction of human frailty, in this case, a violin virtuoso who wills himself to die when he can no longer play the way he wants to.
Satrapi, a gregarious woman with a hearty laugh and exuberant spirit, was as animated as her film wasn’t explaining her reasons, as well as when she explained why it was important to her to have an international cast, and why she risked the safety of both herself and her family in order to testify in in 2009 before the European Parliament about the disputed Iranian elections. We started, though, with a lighter subject, whether or not she dreams in animation.
CHICKEN WITH PLUMS is the second part of her trilogy covering Iranian history in the 20th century. Based on her graphic novel of the same name, it is the wildly tragic, wildly romantic story of Nasser Ali-Khan, a violinist whose genius stems from being separated from his one true love. When he is unable to find an instrument that can produce the music he wants, he decides to take to his bed and die. As he does so, his life and that of his family unfold in a series of flashbacks and flashforwards that explore the nature of love and longing. Satrapi co-directed with Parronaud, with whom she also shares the screenwriting credit. Their previous collaboration, PERSEPOLIS was based on the first part of Satrapi’s Iranian trilogy of the same name.