Film Review: Michel Gondry’s ‘Mood Indigo’

'Mood Indigo'

A piano that makes cocktails as it is played, an eel that slithers out of a sink faucet, a dinner table that devours meals, a doorbell that comes to life when it is rung– these are just a few of the inventive visual treats brought to life by filmmaker Michel Gondry in his new film, ‘Mood Indigo.” Inspired by the French novelist Boris Vian’s cult 1947 novel ‘Froth on the Daydream,’ Romain Duris plays wealthy bachelor Colin, who lives in a kind of charmingly French Pee-wee’s Playhouse of an apartment overlooking Paris. He employs Nicolas (Omar Sy) as his trusty chef and lawyer who concocts elaborate, fantastical (stop-motioned animated) dishes for him. When Colin learns that his best friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh) is dating Nicolas’ American cousin Alise (Aïssa Maïga) who shares his love of the philosopher, Jean­Sol Partre, (an obvious nod to Jean Paul Sartre) he decides that he must find a woman for himself. At a friend’s party he is introduced to Chloé (Audrey Tautou), and after an awkward start, soon finds himself dancing the “Biglemoi” to Duke Ellington with her. After a short courtship that involves a magical trip around and above Paris in a cloud bubble contraption, they are married.

'Mood Indigo'

But tragedy soon impinges on their fairytale romance, when, on their honeymoon, Chloe contracts an unusual illness, which begins to plague her. Desperate to help her, Nicholas consults a doctor (played by Gondry himself) who informs them that she has a flower growing in her lungs. The only cure for her bizarre affliction is to surround her with a never­ending supply of fresh flowers, and Nicolas soon goes broke providing them for her. His continuing efforts to cure her force him to find increasingly absurd forms of employment. As the story turns darker, so to does the state of their apartment. By the end, all color has been banished from the film, in a fitful reflection of the story line’s tragic turn.

The film’s constant onslaught of surreal whimsy never grows tiring as in some of Gondry’s earlier films, namely “The Science of Sleep,” as it is matched in ‘Mood Indigo’ with witty, unsentimental dialogue, and an simple, timeless love story. The wonder of Gondry’s handmade visual effects sometimes threaten to overwhelm the characters, but overall he has crafted a charming whirlwind of a movie that touches the emotions while delighting the senses.

Mood Indigo’ opens in New York City at Landmark Sunshine Cinema on Thursday, July 24, 2014. A Q&A with director Michel Gondry with follow the screenings Thursday thru Saturday, with actress Audrey Tautou joining him on Friday.

94 minutes, (In French with English Subtitles)