There are many ways to tell a story, and it feels like the delightful “Chicken With Plums” covers almost all of them.
Sometimes, it resembles a silent movie. Sometimes, it shifts to animation or puppets. At one point, it becomes a movie version of a pop-up book.
A stylized romantic fable that might remind viewers of “Amelie,” the French-language “Chicken With Plums” is a lush and surprising movie that plants lots of questions in our minds and then, almost miraculously, answers all of them in its closing minutes.
The opening scenes have the exaggerated quality of a fairy tale: Nasser-Ali Khan (Mathieu Amalric from “Munich”) is a violinist who, in debt and not in love with his horrendous nag of a wife, takes to his bed, announcing he will stay there until he dies.
The rest of the movie counts down the eight days until that happens, flashing backward in time all the way to Socrates to explain what brought Nasser-Ali to this low point.
A lot of what has happened to Nasser-Ali is revealed in the stories the film’s characters tell each other and in the stories its narrator, who happens to be the Angel of Death, tells us.
That sounds fanciful, and “Chicken” often is, but the movie’s sneaky method of working its way into our hearts is that, as it progresses, it acquires a ring of truth. As the situations and acting shift toward the realistic, Nasser-Ali’s hilarious exaggerations become human-size and moving.
It’s not giving away anything to say Nasser-Ali’s real problem is not the Angel of Death or even the broken Stradivarius he mourns. It’s a problem that is a lot easier to relate to: love.
How he gets it, how he loses it and how he finds it again is what makes this heartbreaking, funny and imaginative movie, which is named for Nasser-Ali’s favorite dish, such a delicious treat. ‘CHICKEN WITH PLUMS’
H H H 1/2 I
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Golshifteh Farahani
Directors: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
Running time: 1:31
Rated: PG-13; language, sexual situations, violence. In French with English subtitles.