Chicken With Plums will never be confused with a normal run of the mill narrative. This French/German/Belgium production takes place in a Tehran of the past and constantly evokes what could be kindly called Persian magic realism.

Directors Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi previously helmed Persepolis, and indeed that animated film gets a call out in the manner of both a reference to a cinema palace as well as a segment in Chicken that pays tribute to an antiquated style of animation. Mathieu Amalric stars as Nasser-Ali Khan and quickly establishes himself as a professional violin player who never seems to have a gig. Vowing to end his life we continue in vignettes that cover the next eight days of his life. Maria de Medeiros and Jamel Debbouze co-star with brief appearances by Isabella Rossellini and Chiara Mastroianni.

If the viewer has patience and a special set of cinema appreciation skills that will go a long way in bringing the story of Chicken With Plums to life. While the story starts in the real world we quickly evolve into fantasy sequences, some of which involve a very specific sense of digital intermediate color manipulation. One sequence takes you by surprise because it’s in English and set in the future with Nasser-Ali’s young children now grown up and living in America. More often than not smoke or clouds are used as a metaphor for transformation that propels the story along its path like a flying carpet. Chicken With Plums opens exclusively this weekend at the River Oaks Three.

–Michael Bergeron