You will know from merely watching the first two minutes of Michael Gondry’s Mood Indigo if it’s your cup of tea or not. Filled with quirky flights of fancy, cutesy dialogue and often nonsensical asides to the central plot, it’s most certainly not a film for anyone easily irritated by whimsy.
Adapted from the 1947 novel Froth on the Daydream by Boris Vian, the plot centres on Colin (Romain Duris), an independently wealthy man who spends his time trying out his friend’s (Omar Sy) cooking and playing on his pianocktail (a piano that makes cocktails when certain notes are played). One day he meets the beautiful Chloe (Audrey Tautou) and the two quickly fall in love. However, things take a turn for the worse when Chloe suddenly falls ill during their honeymoon and her condition steadily deteriorates.
Surrealistic and intensely creative, Gondry’s latest film is the director through and through. Peppered with fanciful moments of stop-motion animation, it most closely resembles the equally strange Science of Sleep from the director’s repertoire but also feels like his most personal film to date, almost as if what’s on-screen has been directly projected from his mind.
It’s a film that lays its cards on the table from minute one and for at least the first half gets by on the strength of its sweet performances and often visually stunning creativity. It does run out of steam as it takes a darker turn when Chloe becomes ill – the cause of which appears to be from ingesting a lotus flower (yes, really) – and the initial novelty of the fantasy element wears thin. There are two versions of the film out there, one being the longer 130 minute cut and the other the shorter, undoubtedly snappier 90-odd minute one. I saw the latter and it struggles to maintain the initial momentum for that length never mind adding another 40 minutes.
In spite of it dealing head on with the rather solemn turn of events it presents – and Gondry deserves at least some kudos for doing that, making for what ultimately becomes his darkest film yet – it’s lacks a certain emotional impact. By the time it gets to its biggest dramatic moments it doesn’t have the desired effect because the road there has been so unfocused. Unlike, say, Gondry’s own Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it doesn’t marry the emotional character drama with the fanciful eccentricity well at all, leading to a curiously emotionally unengaging watch by film’s end.
Mood Indigo’s free-wheeling whimsical nature – where nothing makes much of any sense and emotional resonance is pushed aside in favour of idiosyncratic digressions made up of felt and pop music-led set-pieces – won’t be for everyone but those with a high threshold for quirkiness will find worth here. It’s ultimately frothy, inconsequential nonsense but enjoyable if you’re willing to throw up your hands and just go with it.