I have been trying to get my hands on this film for more than two years now. Let me tell you, it was a joy to finally see it. The sophomore film by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi, directors of Persepolis (2007), tells a delightfully whimsical example on what cinema can offer. The story is both sad, but uplifting. It was somber and still hilarious. I had high expectations going into Poulet aux prunes and it did not disappoint.
World-renowned musician Nasser Ali Khan (Mathieu Amalric), has decided to die. He will leave behind two children and a wife who love him dearly. But he does not care. Nasser has lost his taste for life. The only issue he has left is not leaving a mess for anyone to clean up. Therefore, he has decided to stay in bed until he perishes. Not even his favorite dish, chicken with plums, can coax him out of bed. He is a stubborn man stuck is a musician’s reality.
Several years before his decision, Nasser’s wife jealously destroyed his beloved violin. Searching for a replacement, he longs for a violin that can play the sorrow his broken heart continues to feel for a woman he knew a long time ago. He buys the most expensive violin available, but still it proves to be less than adequate. It wasn’t until a trip to a magical shop that he found a violin that can play the strings of his heart and truly materialize his heart’s remorse. Once he plays his sorrow-song one last time, the one that made him famous, he decides to die.
The film is comparable in a lot of ways to Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001). It sets a dreamy undertone that uses the lead character’s crazy imagination to create comedic tales. For instance, Nasser dreams of what his children’s futures would hold without him being around. The daughter becomes a card-counting poker cutthroat, while the son goes to the University of Wyoming and has children so fat that one of them gives birth without knowing she was pregnant.
There is a sad beauty that accompanies all comforts encountered within the film. As if you have to give a little sadness in order to obtain some happiness. There are also several whimsical ideas and fantasies that we are shown while Nasser awaits his death in bed. We are shown which body parts he would take comfort in with a giant Sophia Loren. Nasser also dreams of an unusual appearance by the Angel of Death as well as flashbacks to a long-lost love. It is through these imaginative episodes that we begin to know Nasser and his life. The movie ends the way it’s supposed to – a man saying that he is going to die and actually doing it.
As its title indicates, the film is sweet and savory and sticks to your bones. Poulet aux Prunes is one of my favourite French films of all time.
93 mins. In French and English.