"Chicken With Plums," the second movie from the directors of the animated feature "Persepolis," is a live-action work that uses animation as a flourish. Yet it's more of a cartoon than its predecessor, with Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud adopting a self-contained visual scheme for nearly every emphatic emotion.
And there are no other kinds of emotion in this time-shifting memory poem: The romance is absolute, the despair unquenchable. Even more than its source material, Satrapi's graphic novel of the same name, the film is a luxuriant lament. Moving from the autobiographical realism of "Persepolis," Satrapi tells the story of a great uncle, a story about Iran and art and beauty.
That uncle, a renowned violinist named Nasser Ali, is played by the indispensable Mathieu Amalric, whose fluent expressiveness is at one with the film's reverie. Nasser Ali's melodrama begins in a back lot version of 1958 Tehran, where he takes to bed, waiting to die, because someone close to him has destroyed his beloved instrument. (In a disappointing change, the Iranian tar, or lute, of the book becomes the more familiar fiddle.)
The eight days of Nasser Ali's wait for death unfold chronologically, but within each day his thoughts carry the story from flashback to flash-forward and back to the broken-spirited present, where his violin and his marriage are both in pieces. As his demanding and pragmatic math teacher wife, Maria de Medeiros is fed up and heartbroken, her face a soured valentine. "You knew I was an artist when you married me," Nasser Ali says, surely one of the most uttered sentences in the history of matrimony.