- RatedNC16 /GenreDrama
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You just have to give it to Michel Gondry. There is a certain “je ne sais quoi” about French director-producer extraordinaire Michel Gondry’s latest film adaptation of Boris Vian’s 1947 novel ‘J’Écume des jours’. ‘Mood Indigo’ provides an experience not unlike watching an extended episode of ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse’, except with very grown-up content.
Colin (Romain Duris) leads an easy boho life as a wealthy inventor, who lives in his quirky trailer-like house with his friend/personal chef/lawyer/accountant/caretaker Nicholas (Omar Sy) and an anthropomorphic ‘mouse’ (a mouse-sized man in a mouse costume). His carefree days are interrupted when his mate Chick (Gad Elmaleh), a man who is obsessed with Jean Sol-Parte (a spoonerism of existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte), suddenly announces that he’s fallen in love.
While attending a party with Chick and Nicholas, Colin meets Chloé (Audrey Tautou). Despite Colin’s clumsiness in the beginning, a fairy tale romance blossoms and they get married. But things soon fall apart, literally, when Chloé succumbs to debilitating pneumonia (euphemistically referred to as a “water lily in her lung”), which her loving husband devotes his entire fortune and energy to treat.
The main appeal of ‘Mood Indigo’ is that it effectively uses ‘low-tech’, almost cheesy visualisations to tell what is a poignant story. It is as if the film sets out to depict the elation of love and the devastation of loss to a child, employing ‘kiddy’ euphemisms and analogies to convey the adult themes.
Gondry’s use of low-fi special effects, which divided audiences in ‘The Science of Sleep’ (2006), can sometimes be over-the-top, and may leave you asking what’s the point in all this, especially when the doorbell scurries from the wall like a bug, and the Willy Wonka-esque “Pianocktail”, a grand piano contraption that turns a piece played on its keyboard into a drink.
Therein lies Gondry’s genius – his ability to breathe life into Vian’s words. The cartoonish antics of everyday objects behaving like they have a mind of their own start to make sense; music can take a physical form to be imbibed, ideas could literally be swallowed, as demonstrated by Chick having Parte’s books in pill form.
Duke Ellington’s music serves as a fitting leitmotif for the film, where the 1930 jazz composition ‘Mood Indigo’ is arranged “upside down”, a fitting title for this film. Chloé has even more significance if one has knowledge of Ellington’s ‘Chloe (Song of the Swamp)’, which describes the melancholic tale of a lonely character on a quest to find “Chloe” in the “dismal swampland”. This background story renders the ending of the film even more poignant, but here be spoilers!
Poetic, quirky and melancholic all at the same time, ‘Mood Indigo’ is another piece of phantasmagorical storytelling from Gondry, adroitly adding a tinge of bitterness to a cocktail easily mistaken for a soft drink.