REVIEW WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For 21st Century Media
The whimsical French language film, “Mood Indigo,” revolves around a pair of characters, Colin (Romain Duris from “Populaire) and Chloé (Audrey Tautou from “Amelie”), who inhabit a strange, surrealistic world.
Colin is a wealthy slacker. His apartment is full of all sorts of futuristic, Rube Goldbergesque inventions. This includes a piano, which prepares and dispenses cocktails.
Colin has a personal chef, Nicholas (Omar Sy from “The Intouchables”). Nicholas whips up all sorts of visually elaborate concoctions for his employer. A miniaturized man, who had donned a mouse outfit, wanders through the kitchen.
Colin’s best friend is Chick (Glad Elmaleh). The two of them are acolytes of the French philosopher, Jean-Sol Satre (a feeble parody of Jean-Paul Satre).
Colin discovers that Chick has attracted an attractive new American girlfriend, Alise (Aissa Maiga). It turns out that she is Nicholas’ American niece. Nicholas also has a pretty young paramour, Isis (Charlotte Le Bon from “The Hundred-Foot Journey”).
Colin resents that he is without a woman to keep him company. Brimming with indignation, Colin joins Nicholas and Chick at a party. The event includes an archival clip by Duke Ellington and his band performing. Nicholas sprouts bizarre, gumby legs as he dances to the music. Other partiers mimic this anatomical aberration as they also break into a dance routine.
While attending the party, Colin meets the charming Chloé. The two thirty-somethings are conventionally attractive, but both are thoroughly eccentric. Of course, they fall in love with one another.
Following a strange contest, Colin and Chloé engage in a marriage ceremony. Before long, a flower begins growing within Chloé’s lungs. How will Colin cope with this new health challenge? The film’s tone abruptly changes.
Based on a 1948 novel by by Boris Vian, “Mood Indigo” is the latest feature film from co-screenwriter/director, Michael Gondry. The filmmaker hails from a background in music videos.
Gondry started out shooting the French rock group, Oui Oui, for whom he also played the drums. The Icelandic singer, Björk, tapped Gondry to direct her video for “Human Behaviour” and seven subsequent songs. Gondry also directed videos for such acts as Paul McCartney, The White Strikes, Radiohead, and Beck. He also shot commercials for Smirnoff vodka, The Gap, and the Levi’s 501 Jeans. The latter won a bevy of awards, but has never been televised in the United States. This is due to the fact that it contained content involving the purchase of latex condoms. His music videos and commercials took advantage of Gondry’s distinctive visual flair. However, these entities did not require Gondry to mount anything with a narrative trajectory.
Gondry is part of an influx of filmmakers, who have a background in music videos and commercials. He joins such filmmakers as Spike Jonze and David Fincher, who present with similar résumés.
Gondry’s filmmography turns out to be remarkably uneven. After his debut film, “Human Nature,” Gondry co-wrote the screenplay for and directed, “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It elicited critical kudos and won an Academy Award for best original screenplay. In the interim, the preponderance of Gondry’s films proved extremely disappointing. This included such fare as “The Green Hornet” and “The We and the I.” Gondry only made one other appealing release, the concert film, “Block Party.” It documented a free outdoor show, organized and emceed by the comedian, Dave Chapelle. The film marked the memorable reunion of Lauryn Hill with her erstwhile group, The Fugees. This was augmented by an all-star cast including Kanye West, The Roots, Mos Def, Jill Scott, John Legend, Erykah Badu, and Big Daddy Kane.
Some have suggested that Gondry’s “Mood Indigo” is suggestive of a Gallic version of a Wes Anderson film. It most certainly is not. It is true that this film has a meticulously crafted set, much like an Anderson film. While Anderson’s production designs also display extraordinary detailing, they are planted firmly in reality. By contrast, the universe depicted in “Mood Indigo” is inherently imaginary. Moreover, the characters in Anderson’s films are engagingly quirky and harbor interesting perspectives. Gondry’s characters in “Mood Indigo” are disconcertingly precious and self-absorbed. While Anderson’s movies contain a coherent narrative, Gondry is content to once again wallow in meandering machinations.
Dominated by the fantastical, “Mood Indigo” ends up being a moody mess.
** No MPAA Rating 131 minutes
Nathan Lerner welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.