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Film review: Gondry's Indigo works like magic

Edmund Lee

 

MOOD INDIGO
Starring: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Omar Sy, Gad Elmaleh
Director: Michel Gondry
Category IIB (French)

 

If this movie proves anything, it's that French filmmaker Michel Gondry badly needs a hug. After coming up with two romantic heartbreakers in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and The Science of Sleep (2006), the music video veteran has again returned to the fantastical realm with Mood Indigo, which somehow manages to be the gloomiest story of the lot.

Adapted from French author Boris Vian's seminal 1947 novel variously entitled Froth on the Daydream, Foam of the Daze and Mood Indigo in English, the film opens with a scene that hints at the metafictional flourishes of those earlier spectacles: writers are seated along rows of typewriters, which keep on moving horizontally from one person to the next until the papers are collected at the end of the lines, forming a book titled Mood Indigo.

Although this premise, which is briefly revisited throughout, clearly alludes to the collaborative writing technique known as "exquisite corpse", Gondry's latest effort consists of a largely linear timeline that shies away from his usual Chinese box narrative structure.

The main character, Colin (Romain Duris), is a handsome bachelor who's wealthy enough to afford a house chef, Nicolas (Omar Sy of The Intouchables), and live comfortably without working. Upon feeling the urge to fall in love, he encounters the affable Chloé (Audrey Tautou) almost immediately at a house party.

The two soon get married, but their happiness is cut short when, during their honeymoon trip, a water lily enters Chloé's body and begins to grow in one of her lungs. What transpires is a slow waltz towards death for her, and the unfamiliar experience of financial hardship and labour for her husband.

In a subplot that mirrors the despair of the newlywed couple, Colin's close friend, Chick (Gad Elmaleh), watches his life unravel as his obsession with the philosopher Jean-Sol Partre - the Jean-Paul Sartre of this alternate universe - corrupts his mind and alienates him from his girlfriend Alise (Aïssa Maïga).

In a stylistic decision that recalls a special edition of Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005), Mood Indigo opens in lush, vibrant colour before gradually fading to black-and-white, reflecting the progressively bleak atmosphere that the characters find themselves in.

At once ineffably lyrical and unbearably sad, Mood Indigo is a tragic romance that exists entirely in a dream world. That may sound daunting, but if you feel like a sob story that's packed wall-to-wall with surreal imagery, this film is going to work like magic.

edmund.lee@scmp.com

 

Mood Indigo opens on August 1

 

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