“Mood Indigo” (2013) A Bit of French Surrealism (Review)

Michel Gondry’s latest film, Mood Indigo, is based on a novel by Boris Vian called L’Ecume de Jours, which is also the french title of the film but its English translation to “The Foam of the Days” doesn’t sound as catchy so the international title is Mood Indigo, the name of a Duke Ellington tune featured prominently in the movie. This is very much a Michel Gondry movie, a surrealistic love story set in world ruled by dream logic, complete with stop motion cutlery, crazy set design and various flights of fancy.

This writer has not read Vian’s novel but it seems like the kind of novel which some would deem “unfilmable”, that is unfilmable by most other people than Michel Gondry whose unique style is very fitting for this kind of material.

The story here is really very simple and can be summarized as “Boy meets girl, boy and girl get married, girl gets disease” but can also be summarized as “Rich boy lives a life without worry, rich boy gets reasons start worrying and has to get a job”.

This may very well be Gondry’s most personal project yet, even if it ain’t his original story, as his style is all over the place here and this is very much “Un Film de Michel Gondry”. For anyone who’s seen his music videos and other films his style is instantly recognizable here and it’s clear he’s gone all out to let himself go wild. We’ve got a flying cloud car, food that runs away when you try to eat it, a chef that lives inside a tv, extending feet, a boxcar race through a church and plenty more where that came from. Gondry’s style could be dubbed as “Cute weirdness” and he’s never been weirder, or cuter, than here.

On the surface Mood Indigo might be dismissed as a load of surrealistic whimsy and balderdash but if you dig in a little it’s clear there’s a lot going on here. To begin with it can be seen as a sort of parable or allegory about how the really rich and priviliged live. Our hero (played by Romain Duris) is a man who lives on a trust fund and hardly has to lift a finger to get by as everything is done for him, he’s got his own personal chef (played by Omar Sy from The Intouchables) who’s also a lawyer and everything in his home seems to be controlled by little creatures, such as a small mouse and a walking doorbell.

But then this guy realises something is missing from his life and he finds himself a woman, and in starting to care for another person his whole life starts to change and crash all around him, especially when the love of his life becomes sick.

Mood Indigo starts out as a story about a guy whose life is nothing but fun and games, then evolves into a love story and eventually becomes a disease movie of sorts. But it wraps everything in an utterly surrealistic package where anything can happen, your stop-motion food can crawl away and you can get married underwater.

This film could easily have been much too cute and insufferable but Gondry and his cast manage to get the right tone and make this bit of silliness work. Audrey Tatou’s character for instance could easily have been insufferably cute but Tatou has the good sense to tone things down and makes her character very likable. The same can be said for everyone else, getting just about the right mix of melancholy and whimsy.

Of course it does threaten to get too cutesy at times and does take a bit of time of getting into. In the beginning the tone is a bit messy and slightly annoying but thankfully you soon get into the films rhythm as its becomes apparent what Gondry is trying to do.

The Good: Gondry goes crazy with visuals and style here and this movie is filled with memorable imagery. The lead actors all get the right tone.
The Bad: Too cutesy at times and the tone is often a bit messy.
The Weird: Everything.

 Overall: 7.1/10

Written By Atli

Atli is a film geek from Iceland who dreams of being a great film director, but until then he’s going to criticize the works of other film directors, great and not-so-great alike. His favorite actor is Sam Rockwell and his favorite directors are (among others) Robert Altman, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Billy Wilder, Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick. Atli also loves pizza, travelling and reading good books.

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