Less Veils, More Poetry — Marjane Satrapi on Iran and Her Latest Film Chicken with Plums

Marjane Satrapi told her story about growing up in Iran, the fall of the Shah's regime, and going to Vienna to study in her multi-volume graphic novel, Persepolis. She and Vincent Parounnaud made that story into an animated movie of the same name in 2007. Now the two have collaborated on directing Chicken with Plums, a live-action film telling the story of a musician who decides to die when his beloved violin is broken, and he can't find a replacement. Satrapi, who based the character loosely on her uncle, was in San Francisco when the film played at the San Francisco Film Festival. She sat down with SF Weekly to talk about her obsession with life and death, her love of '50s films' aesthetics, and how she'd like people to talk about the poetry that's come out of Iran, rather than veils and nuclear war.

Was telling your uncle's story something you always had in mind?

In reality, it's not my uncle's story. A few years ago I saw a photo of this uncle, who is the uncle of my mother, and he looked extremely beautiful and had melancholy in his eyes. He had something wild and profound in him, and my mother explained to me he was a great musician and when he was playing in his garden, people would stop in the street and listen to his music, and he died because he was sad, but that is the only thing I know about him.

I was at a moment in my life when I was completely obsessed with life and death and love and the meaning of art and me and them and how and who, and so I just made a projection of myself on this uncle and lots of things that have happened in the family, but are not his stories particularly. So I used him, and then I went freestyle with the things that interested me. But I guess that everybody who write any kind of stories — zombie stories, alien stories — have to do with your personal obsessions inside.

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