DIR: Michel Gondry • WRI: Michel Gondry, Luc Bossi • PRO: Luc Bossi • DOP: Christophe Beaucarne • ED: Marie-Charlotte Moreau• DES: Stéphane Rosenbaum • MUS: Étienne Charry • CAST: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Omar Sy
Perhaps as a natural defence against the lukewarm reception of 2011’s so-so Seth Rogen vehicle Green Hornet, Michel Gondry’s latest offering sees the director pitch himself head-first back down the rabbit hole from whence he came, bringing the surrealism in such spades as to make even such a tenuous Alice-In-Wonderland reference as this seem perfectly structured by comparison.
Mood Indigo (originally L’Écume des jours) follows a young and wealthy Frenchman named Colin (Romain Duris) who, envious of his friends’ successes with the fairer sex, stands up from his breakfast one day and decides that he too would quite like to fall in love. Enter Chloe (Audrey Tautou), a sweet and witty socialite who views Romain’s bumbling gestures at social grace as endearing. The two are scarcely married before Chloe is struck ill with a case of water-lily-in-the-lung, and Colin kicks in a life of idle pastimes in order to foot their growing hospital bills.
If the premise sounds a bit strange, rest assured that the story of love and loss is a solitary anchor in the fever dream to follow. Where Gondry’s perhaps best-loved work, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, takes increasingly unhinged forays into the surreal while winding up to a climax, Mood Indigo lives there from the get-go.
Set in modern-day Paris as filtered through a funhouse mirror, Gondry’s world is one of philosophy fiends, thrift-shop technology and frantic pathetic fallacy, where walls literally close in on the characters, sunlight is threaded along musical strings and conveyor belts of typists mash out the minutia of modern life on an unceasing literary production line. It’s an evocative and often overwhelming mix, and the same surreal images that enfuse the love story are equally powerful when swung the other way in the film’s latter stages.
However, to repeat the inevitable comparison to Eternal Sunshine, Mood Indigo never quites matches style with substance in the same way that its predecessor does. Though movingly delivered by all actors involved, the main love story is simply not as involving as it could be, the characters inspiring abstract amusement more than genuine empathy.
Powerful as the imagery is, it too often judders between whimsy and woe to truly achieve either, and while certainly affecting while on the screen, the film leaves little after a viewing beyond fleeting enjoyment and a notion that something entirely larger has been missed.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Mood Indigo is released on 1st August 2014