Michel Gondry’s oeuvre tells us from the start that surrealism and manipulation of visual styles and mise en scène is sort of his thing, and ‘Mood Indigo’, based on Boris Vian’s novel ‘Froth on the Daydream’, ensures that all that stuff is duly ramped up to eleven as usual. Unrelentingly whimsical even in its darker moments, ‘Indigo’ is a periodically funny and always ambitious piece that embraces its faux realistic setting wholeheartedly, portraying suburban Paris life with a substantial twist packed with scuttling alarm clocks and crane rides that would work well as vignettes but never quite come together to make a film that feels like anything other than a series of experiments, despite Gondry’s wholehearted attempts to give it some emotional value.
The acting performances are perfectly acceptable, but Romain Duris can do nothing to stop main character Colin (pronounced with as much French gusto as possible) from being a whiny, annoying douchebag whose romance with Audrey Tautou’s Chloé isn’t believable from the very start, with strained dialogue that’s only partially saved by Gondry’s visual artistry, but then gives the rest of it an air of detachment where you no longer care about the characters, who are far too caricaturish to truly connect with, but try to enjoy the spectacle that Gondry is giving you. The problem is, the novelty of the weird dancing and philosophical jokes does start to wear thin after a while, which is exactly why the film would work perhaps as a couple of well cut short films. An obvious example involves the philosopher Jean-Sol Partre (a spoonerism of French thinker Jean-Paul Sartre) whose effect on Colin’s friend Chick, played by Gad Elmaleh, are enormous and quite amusing, but feel hugely disjointed as part of the larger picture. Particular acting plaudits do go to Omar Sy though, who is always a charming screen presence and one of the best and most consistent things about the film, working with the surreal humour brilliantly and as astutely as one could with material as wacky as this.
‘Mood Indigo’ is a little bit like being force fed colourful cupcakes. At first, the bright colours, strange texture and enjoyable nature of them draws you in, but ten cupcakes down the line all you want is a lie down. Gondry is no doubt a talented film-maker and it is hard to object to him making this sort of film when he’s so uncompromisingly original, one just has to hope that his next film fits together a lot better than this one did, because as much as he goes for the deep emotional value here it never manages to surpass that level of superficiality it intricately creates so well from the start. All the glimpses of Gondry’s best work can be found dotted about, but this is no ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ simply because it’s nowhere near as cinematically coherent, and that’s a big shame.
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