Director: Michel Gondry
Cast: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou
Running Time: 94 mins
Release Date: August 1st
There is probably no filmmaker working today who has as recognisable a visual style as Michel Gondry; from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to The Science of Sleep and Be Kind Rewind, his inventive, quirky, style is unique today and certainly has the ‘Marmite effect’ with audiences who either love and applaud it or see it as unintelligible madness.
Mood Indigo is Gondry’s first full feature since 2011’s forgettable Green Hornet, and a return to his native language, in terms of both speech and visual style. This is Gondry turned up to 11 and works both for and against the movie in parts. The film is an adaptation of the 1947 novel, “L’écume des jours” by eccentric French author and musician Boris Vian. In Vian, Gondry seems to have found a kindred spirit, the ideas and imagery seem almost purpose made for him to realise.
As the film opens we meet Colin, played by Romain Duris, probably best known for his outstanding performance in 2005’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped. He is a rich eccentric, whose greatest achievement to date has been the invention of a ‘pianocktail’; a piano that mixes cocktails based on the notes you play. Omar Syd plays his servant/chef/lawyer Nicolas, and Gad Elmaleh is his best friend, Chick.
Living a carefree existence, Colin suddenly finds himself as the only single man amongst his friends and decides there and then that, “This solitude is unbearable, I demand to fall in love too!” The universe seems to concur and that night, at a birthday party for a dog, he meets Chloé, played by the ever youthful Audrey Tautou. Despite Colin’s initial clumsiness they hit it off and are soon romantically entangled. Their first date is a fine example of Gondry’s visual style at its best. Colin and Chloé take a tour around Paris in a mechanical cloud, their legs dangling underneath as they fly across the city.
Similarly, as Colin and Chloé are about to get married they are forced to have a stop-motion go-kart race with Chick and his girlfriend Alise through the labyrinthine innards of a church, as only the winners will be married. Chick’s girlfriend memorably pleads to ‘change the narrative’, ‘If we win the race, we can be the heros and we wed!’
The second half of the film turns a lot darker as Chloé is struck down by a mysterious illness diagnosed as a water lily growing in her lungs. As Colin’s money runs out and Chloé’s illness worsens, the colour and humour drains from the movie and there is a distinct air of menace. Colin’s apartment becomes like a cocoon and even the walls of their bedroom change shape beginning to resemble something from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
While Gondry is the perfect foil for Vian’s imagery, the plot, insomuch as there is one, is a flimsy vehicle for Gondry’s visual treats. Although they are impressive they somewhat suffocate the film and make it very hard to empathise with the characters when the tone gets darker towards the end of the movie. What remains is a largely unsuccessful attempt to create a serious piece of whimsy.