Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Romain Duris, Omar Sy
by Fiona Hardie, Arts Editor
Duris and Tautou team up once again, this time with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry at the helm of his adaptation of French author Boris Vian’s cult novel L’écume des jours. Weird and wonderful, it’s an incredibly visual tour de force that could only be crafted by the hand of Gondry himself – every frame is so essentially him: peculiar and elaborate, perfectly balanced with heartfelt and human performances from the two leads and the rest of the ensemble cast, including Omar Sy, star of Untouchable.
Colin meets Chloe at a party; they fall in love and get married. This seems simple enough, but add the layer of Gondry’s (and Vian’s) trademark surrealism, a backdrop of contemporary Paris through a distinctly retro filter and an unusual illness that throws the narrative off-track, and it’s a recipe for a film with a thoroughly odd but charming taste. Exquisitely executed, I’d had high expectations for this film for almost a year and the UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival in February certainly did not disappoint.
It feels like a film of two halves, though the transition in tone is subtly, gradually done throughout and each part is as beautiful as the other. The first half of the narrative is lighthearted and unabashedly feel-good. The childlike, visual nature of each scene is extraordinarily delightful, with a race-to-the-altar wedding, ice skating, bizarre dancing and various animated parts of Colin’s apartment all reflecting an unapologetic kind of happiness: the two protagonists literally float – both on a cloud above Paris, and underwater. The music is a mix of original soundtrack and jazz, perfectly befitting the carefree mood and concoction of ideas within the story.
As Chloe’s sudden illness develops, the tone slowly darkens, the colours and the apartment changing with this – with plants and flowers becoming more prominent motifs throughout the film, synonymous with a slow deterioration. Amongst all this, true beauty shines through constantly in each intricate frame, the performances from every cast member, and the dreamlike quality of the entire film.
The end doesn’t really strike you as the end; you’re left reeling from the sheer emotional and cinematic feast you’ve just witnessed – due to a narrative trick the climax is, cleverly, almost too quick, before its time, so the catharsis is delayed. It’s gritty and surprisingly realistic in the bizarre and beautiful surreal world of the film; a punch to the gut that never quite arrives – until you’re on the way home and it suddenly catches up with you.
Mood Indigo is a truly striking film, the likes of which you don’t see very often due to the sheer incongruity of the narrative’s universe and the extravagant way in which it is presented. In this way, Gondry’s love-it-or-loathe-it style will probably be the deciding matter with every viewer. All I know is that after months of waiting, Mood Indigo was just about everything I had hoped it would be.