Before we get cracking on today’s review, take a look at the below trailer:
Doesn’t that look like fun? From the video, Michel’s Gondry’s seventh feature looks like a soaring love story full of high contrast visuals and clever imagination. It all seems light and airy, perfect for couples who like their date night a little more Amélie than What Women Want. If that was your first impression, you’re not exactly wrong but you’re not exactly right either. Beneath its sugary surface, Mood Indigo hides a deeply metaphorical story that explores the ebb and flow of human relationship with imagination, style and daring insight.
The plucky pair in question is Colin (Roman Duris) and Chloe (Audrey Tautou). After an arranged meeting by Roman’s best friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh), the couple embarks on a whirlwind romance. While Duris and Tautou have a natural, energetic chemistry, a lack of solid character development never allows them to grow beyond the annoying necking couple you stand behind in a grocery store checkout line. Luckily, Tautou’s kinetic, charming energy supports Duris’ unassuming and borderline dorky nature, creating likable and easy to root for protagonists.
The supporting cast does a great job coloring the off center world of Indigo, including some strong work by Elmaleh as the philosophy obsessed Chick and Omar Sky as Roman’s lawyer / live in chef. The surreal interpretation of modern day Paris looks fantastic, even when it borders on the unbelievable.
After a couple of drab, stifling films, Michel Gondry’s distinctive visual style is back in full force, employing nearly every camera trick in his extensive toolbox. The movie is a sensory overload of imagination and energy. From Roman’s subway car home full of magical inventions to a soaring sky ride on a plastic cloud, it’s obvious this was a passion project. It’s all very French, so if you found 2006’s The Science of Sleep a bit too whimsical, Mood Indigo will not be for you. For the rest of us, the practical effects and exquisite stop motion photography are some of the best I’ve seen from Gondry since the legendary Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Although the story doesn’t reach Kaufman levels of brilliance, it’s still an exceptionally nuanced tale of the rise and decay of young love. As I said in the introduction, the story begins to delve into serious, heart rending drama around the two thirds mark. Metaphors for life’s wear on a relationship, obsession with the abstract and the fantasy of changing what’s already been written bloom as the story sinks deeper into the borderline depressing final third. It’s all surprisingly weighty stuff but the aforementioned lack of character arc makes the tough bits difficult to chew and when Indigo reaches the credits, some may have a sour taste in their mouths.
Simply put, Mood Indigo is Gondry’s most ambitious and challenging work since Eternal Sunshine. Bravely brimming with inventive ideas, the story of two lovers trapped in a tornado of spontaneous attraction is a delight to behold, even when the storm dies down and the pair crashes back to Earth. Despite some thin characters and a gut punch conclusion that will leave some viewers scratching their heads, Mood Indigo is the mark of a visionary filmmaker returning to the world of magical surrealism he helped bring to the popular consciousness. Even if you don’t trust the trailer, believe in Gondry’s ability to move and astound with his uncanny knack for creating vibrantly beautiful films.
Score: 8 out of 10
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Jersey born and New York bred, Bill Tucker is a writer of short fiction, film reviews and articles across a variety of genres and media. He currently writes a regular movie column entitled “Behind the Cinematic Curtain” for Revolt Daily, contributes to a fashion blog for http://www.pop-market.com and has a number of short stories in various stages of publication. When not writing, he works as an IT Trainer for a fashion software company. He currently hangs his hat in Austin, Texas. Check out more of his work at http://www.thesurrealityproject.com.