Colin (Romain Duris) is a well-to-do bachelor living on a train near Paris. But, money is not everything and he needs more. He needs to find true love. Despondent that he will live his life alone, he attends a party held by his best friend, Mr. Chick (Gad Elmaleh). There, he meets Chloe (Audrey Tautou), a beautiful young woman who wins his heart in “Mood Indigo.”
I am only familiar with a couple of Michel Gondry films, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Science of Sleep.” I did not take to either. So, I went into “Mood Indigo” less than eager, especially since I am not familiar with the source material by novelist Boris Vian.
Things start of with whimsy and quirk as we enter Colin’s world. His chef (and lawyer), Nicolas (Omar Sy) prepares elaborate foods as Colin works on his invention, the pianocktail, and mopes around because he wants to fall in love. This takes up the first half of the film and it is awash with stop motion animation that will not let up. Then, the whimsy turns to romance when he meets Chloe.
The second half of “Mood Indigo” switches gears as Colin and Chloe begin an idyllic romance that approaches treacle. Then, tragedy strikes when Chloe faints and Colin learns that she has a flower growing in her lung. Frantic so save his beloved, Colin finds that fresh cut flowers are the only thing that will comfort his wife.
With all that said, I appreciate the quirky, stop motion F/X that dominates much of the film. But, effects cannot sustain a film for two hours and it relies on the romantic tragedy to carry it through. Unfortunately, “Mod Indigo” loses steam (and its weird whimsy) when the romance takes over. I found that I really did not care about the characters or their plight. The problem is that it is two bi-polar films in one and the mix does not work. At least, not for me.
Fans of “Mood Indigo” and/or Boris Vian will undoubtedly love the film. But Michel Gondry is an acquired taste that I never acquired. I give it a C+.
As we see his story being turned out by rows of typists picking up where another left off on machines moving down rails, Colin (Romain Duris, "Populaire") is in his quirky abode, where servant bells scuttle about like insects and his cook Nicolas (Omar Sy, "The Intouchables") battles eels coming out of kitchen faucets. His friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh, "Capital") stops by to sample a cocktail devised by the notes played on a piano and when Colin learns he's scooped up Nicolas's niece Alise (Aïssa Maïga, "Caché"), Colin wants a girlfriend of his own. At a party, he's awkward meeting Chloé (Audrey Tautou, "Amélie"), but the two get married quickly only to discover a water lily has implanted itself in her lung in "Mood Indigo."
Cowriter (with Luc Bossi)/director Michel Gondry ("Be Kind Rewind") came onto the scene directing "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," which he cowrote with Charlie Kaufman. Since then, his brand of retro fantasy hasn't worn well. In adapting Boris Vian's novel, Gondry fills the screen with imaginative visuals - stop motion animation, a cloud vehicle, a picnic in a plexiglass limo - but the story of a man losing everything to save his wife lacks resonance. "Mood Indigo" plays like the creation of Wes Anderson by way of Terry Gilliam with the emotional gravitas of Pee Wee Herman.
The screen bursts with so much visual information, one begins to feel weary from the start. But while Gondry settles down for stretches, Duris and Tautou remain so much window dressing. Even their wedding is a joke, a 'race' to the altar (against Chick and Alise) in amusement park cars. When the tale takes a tragic turn, one could not care less.
The film's had 37 minutes of its 131 minute French running time cut for American audiences, one of the few times the tampering with a filmmaker's vision seems like a blessing (much of what was cut involves the philosophies of Jean Sol Partre, a play on Satre). It's a feast for the eyes, but it leaves one cold.
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