From Iran With Love

The live-action film adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Chicken with Plums opens today  in New York (showtimes here) and August 31st in LA. The film may be set in Tehran circa 1958, with flashbacks back to the 1930s and ahead to 1990. But the casting of French, Italian, and other European actors to portray Iranians, coupled with the 1950s Technicolor  setting, lends a timelessness to this fable. Hence, even though I initially have little in common with Nasser Ali Khan, I found myself traveling alongside the soul of one of the most renowned musicians of his day. At the outset of the film, we learn that Nasser decides to die because both his treasured violin and taste for life are broken. While I know that he will die,  I longed to learn why he can no longer live. As the movie unfolds we learn he fell in love with Irâne, but her parents refused to allow her to follow her heart and marry a musician. After losing Irâne, Nassar poured his unrequited love into his violin, until his wife broke it in a fit of rage. Bereft of his real loves, he dies of a broken heart.

Those familiar with Marjane Satrapi’s first animated film, Persepolis, will recognize the similar longing for her homeland in Iran. Like Nasser longing for his lost love, Satrapi too appears to yearn for a country that longer exists. But unlike Nasser, she chose not to die after losing her love. Instead she created this trilogy of memory films, which will end with the forthcoming The Eleventh Laureate. While Persepolis tells an autobiographical tale of Satrapi’s life, this second film users snippets from her past—her uncle was a musician, for instance—to tell a story that reminds us we cannot live without love.

Becky Garrison is a satirist/storyteller whose most recent book is Roger Williams’s Little Book of Virtues (Wipf & Stock, March 2020). Also, she edited Love, Always: Partners of Trans People on Intimacy, Challenge and Resilience (Transgress Press, 2015). Her six books include 2006’s Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church (PW, starred review).