Directed by: Michel Gondry
Written by: Michel Gondry, Luc Bossi
Cast: Romain Duris, Audrey TaoTou, Omar Sy,Gad Elmaleh, Aissa Maiga.
I love movies. They affect me in a way no other medium can. I’ve been this way since I was a little kid. Through all my years of movie watching though, I’ve rarely been made to cry. It had only happened once. The first time I saw Pan’s Labyrinth the water works kicked in like there was a fire to put out. This isn’t exactly a point of pride for me, but it is a good thing to know if you watch a moving film with me. I probably won’t cry, but I’ll still be sad. Then I saw Mood Indigo and Michel Gondry had me bawling like an infant. It’s not even a particularly sad movie. It does have sad parts, but I’d say it’s a happy movie in many respects. It was just so beautiful, unique, and powerful that my tear ducts kicked into action in a big way.
Mood Indigo tells a simple story (it’s an adaptation of Boris Vian’s Froth On The Daydream). Colin (Romain Duris) leads a dreamlike existence. He has enough money to live comfortably without working. He has a beautiful, magical apartment where he hangs out with his mentor and chef Nicolas (Omar Sy). He even has a pianocktail, which makes cocktails based on the tunes you play on its keyboard (I can’t explain how much I want one). The only thing he lacks is a woman to love. Nicolas and the philosophically minded Mr. Chick (Gad Elmaleh, whose character is obsessed with the fictional and inscrutable philosopher Jean-Sol Partre.) bring Colin to a party where he meets Chloe (Audrey Tautou) and falls deeply in love with the enchanting, quirky lady.
Mood Indigo is not a romcom about the trials and tribulations of courtship. Their relationship progresses with ease into mutual love and then marriage (the only obstacle is a stock car race to the alter. The priest will only marry the winning couple). All the while, the narrative accompanied by visuals so whimsical they make Spirited Away look like Schindler’s List. The film shifts between incredibly creative camera work, miraculous sets, incredible digital effects, and stop motion sequences that belong in a museum with no hesitation. It’s not just the constant weirdness and technical ability that make the movie great. It’s how effectively they complement the narrative. The film regularly cuts away to a group of people on typewriters producing the text of the story as it goes along. These moments remind the audience that they’re watching a movie and someone has crafted all of this. The same effect is produced by the visuals. They never let you forget that someone made that world. On a deeper level, Mood Indigo is reminding us that we all make our own worlds.
Those worlds we patch together take their shape from the condition of our minds. That’s the central tension of the film. When Chloe gets sick, Colin’s wonderland starts to come apart at the seams. His sadness is reflected in the darkened windows, the shrinking rooms, the loss of his toys, and the aging of his friends. When sadness intrudes on a life like it penetrates Colin’s, it is ubiquitous. Gondry understands this and conveys it in a way that is both beautiful and devastating usually at the same time. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie say something so intrinsic to being human so clearly, and with such nuance. The film is visually amazing and so poetic with its imagery. It’s like watching a perfect visual representation about how confusing and awesome love is, and the ways it permeates every aspect of life. Mood Indigo is to my mind an unqualified masterpiece. It was my favorite movie at Fantastic Fest. Had every other film I saw just been paint drying, and crickets in a field the excursion would have been worth it on the power of this film alone.