Tale of a death-wishing violinist
It very well may be that Marjane Satrapi, the artist-author of Persepolis and other graphic novels, is the modern Scheherazade, confecting colorfully embroidered tales in order to shoo away death.
Nasser Ali Khan, the central character of Chicken With Plums, her 2004 book based on a distant relative, takes to bed to shoo away life.
Satrapi and collaborator Vincent Paronnaud adapted Persepolis to the screen in their magical 2007 animated film. In Chicken With Plums, they have made a stylized live-action allegory starring melancholy Mathieu Amalric as Khan, eyes and mustache drooping in comic exaggeration.
Khan, a violinist in Iran of the 1950s, explicitly mourns his lost love, Irane (Golshifteh Farahani), implicitly grieving the changes in his homeland. Hear him sublimate his grief through the vibrato on his instrument. Beset by a wife he does not love and children he does not understand, he decides to die. During the eight-day countdown to death, we see via flashbacks the sources of his gloom, and also via flash-forwards the effects of his death on his children.
Amalric's performance is comically moving in the manner of silent actors, and the film is beautifully wrought with moments of enchantment. Alas, Chicken is a movie that begins with a crescendo and doesn't sustain its lyricism.