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  Mood Indigo Through With Love
Year: 2013
Director: Michel Gondry
Stars: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Omar Sy, Aïssa Maïga, Charlotte Le Bon, Sacha Bourdo, Vincent Rottiers, Philippe Torreton, Laurent Lafitte, Alain Chabat, Zinedine Soualem, Natacha Régnier, Marina Rozenman, Kid Creole, Michel Gondry
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Colin (Romain Duris) is independently wealthy but starved of female affection, living in his swanky Paris apartment and visited by his two friends, the talented chef and lawyer Nicolas (Omar Sy) and his fellow follower of philosopher Jean-Sol Partre, Chick (Gad Elmaleh) who likes to arrive for cocktails and the elaborate meals. Colin has invented a so-called pianocktail, which as the name suggests is a piano that mixes alcoholic beverages, and Chick is very keen to have a go on it, conjuring up a "mood indigo", named after one of the tunes played by another of their heroes, Duke Ellington. Add a little mouse who shares the apartment, and that's about it for Colin's company, so when Chick invites him to a party, he begins to hope he'll meet someone...

Boris Vian is a novelist almost unknown outside of readers of French, for whom his very particular style proved difficult to translate into other languages, but for director Michel Gondry that represented a challenge: could he bring the author's work to a wider audience around the world? As it was, in spite of a cast headed by well-known Gallic names, it turned out that the non-French cinematic sphere was not particularly interested in what looked from the trailer to be his very particular, practical effects based fantasies going into overdrive to a lunatic degree. It didn't matter that those who liked the source considered Mood Indigo a valiant try to film the book, drumming up interest in something so specific was beyond Gondry's talents.

Certainly the audiences who did give a chance to what on the surface looked like a wacky romance were divided, with many complaining they could not concentrate on what was obviously intended to be an emotional journey when all these eccentric images were in the way - they felt as if they were being pulled in two different directions, and to an extent that was true. However, if you could reconcile these dual impressions and even, with a degree of effort, manage to see the love story through the prism of the fantasy, then you may well find its destination surprisingly affecting as Colin does indeed find the woman of his dreams (Audrey Tautou as Chloé) at that party, and she is generous enough to respond to his clumsy attempts at ingratiating himself to her, resulting in romance.

But this was no ordinary romance... or was it? Wasn't this something billions of people go through in their lifetimes? Therefore it was the way the relationship was presented, as well as the way it was resolved - against the couple's wishes - that offered the texture and resonance, should you be able to respond. If you've ever been sad at a cartoon, even one that wasn't supposed to be, because those characters came across as not worth the world visiting its usual bullshit upon though that may be precisely what is happening, then you'd have some idea of how poignant Mood Indigo could potentially be, for there were many points where the folks inhabiting a simple tale could easily have been represented by cartoons, and actually turning into bizarre caricatures at times to boot.

As the lovers, Duris and especially Tautou could play quirky in their sleep, but far from coasting through Gondry's wild ideas they and their supporting cast were genuinely engaged with delivering what were more or less silly characters in daft situations with a disarming sincerity. There were many times when the naysayers had a point, this was just too busy to take in with the intent the creators wished to convey, but if you could appreciate the actor's legs stretching and bending when they danced, or the trip around Paris in a cloud car, among other imaginative instances, then there was much to be taken with. When Colin and Chloé decide to get married, it seems the rest of the story will play out in the same fairy tale vein, then you remember not every fairy tale has a happy ending and this deceptively simple narrative complicated by its fussy style could contain a powerful charge if you hated the concept of bad things happening to good people, no matter how idiosyncratically metaphorical they may be in this context. And the rest of the world go on, uncaring. Music by Étienne Charry.

Aka: L'écume des jours
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Michel Gondry  (1964 - )

French musician-turned-film-maker who made his name directing innovative videos for the likes of Bjork, Massive Attack and The White Stripes, as well as a variety of TV commercials. His first feature film was 2001's surreal comedy Human Nature, written by Charlie Kaufman. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, co-written with Kaufman and starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, was his next project, a success that was not matched by The Science of Sleep which Gondry wrote himself. Be Kind Rewind was a charming comedy that only won cult acclaim, but superhero spoof The Green Hornet was a surprise hit in light of the grumpy reaction it received. Adaptation of cult novel Mood Indigo proved more difficult to find its audience, though coming of age yarn Microbe & Gasoline was more conventional.

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