Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Movie Review: Mood Indigo

Mood Indigo
Directed by: Michel Gondry.
Written by: Michel Gondry & Luc Bossi based on the novel by Boris Vian.
Starring: Romain Duris (Colin), Audrey Tautou (Chloé), Gad Elmaleh (Chick), Omar Sy (Nicolas), Aïssa Maïga (Alise), Charlotte Le Bon (Isis), Sacha Bourdo (La souris), Vincent Rottiers (Le religieux), Philippe Torreton (Jean-Sol Partre).

Michel Gondry is such a gifted, innovative director that I always want to like his films more than I actually do. I know when I watch a Gondry film, I’ll see some things that I have never seen in a movie before – as Gondry continues to experiment and try new things with practical, handmade special effects – which are charming and sometimes dazzling. In his career to date however Gondry has only made film – 20004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – where his visual skills have been matched by a screenplay and acting as great as Gondry’s visual gift – and such a perfect match for each other. Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman probably deserves much of the credit for the movie, but Gondry raised his game to match the writer. Since then however, Gondry has made some decent films – and every one of them have something to marvel at – but he has never been able to match his 2004 masterpiece. His latest film, Mood Indigo, like the rest have some visual wonders that will leave you wondering how the hell Gondry did that. The film is also way overlong at 131 minutes, and overstays its welcome by quite some time. And the story – based on a novel by Boris Vian – takes a dark turn about half way through that Gondry seems ill-equipped to deal with – as he doesn’t want to abandon the whimsy he had in the first half. If the film is about a couple who live in a fantasy world until reality sets in when one gets sick, Gondry doesn’t really get the transition right – the couple don’t have reality crash done around them, but just a different, darker fantasy. Gondry is so concerned with his quirky visuals that the story seems like an afterthought.

The film stars Romain Duris as Colin – an “independently wealthy” inventor, who never has to work, and gets to play around with his weird creations all day, while being served by his manservant (played by Omar Sy – in a role that Gondry should have known was a horrible stereotype). Colin is lost in his own whimsical world, and when his best friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh) announces that he has fallen in love, Colin decides he wants to do the same. It isn’t long before he meets, and falls for Chloe (Audrey Tautou) – and soon the two are married. She also lives in a fantasy world, and the two indulge each other. But then Chloe gets sick – and the money that seemed like it would always be there slowly starts to drain away. And their candy colored fantasy land that these characters live in gradually becomes duller and darker – and by the end, Gondry will actually switch completely over to black and white.

Gondry is more comfortable in the first half of the movie than he is in the second. In the first half, I had no idea where the film was going to go – it seemed to be nothing but over-the-top whimsy, with one inventive scene after another. In this part, the film drifts with no real focus – but there is enough to enjoy that it doesn’t really matter that much. When the film takes it dark turn in the second half, Gondry doesn’t seem as interested as switching along with the subject matter. Instead of going from dream to reality, which I think was the intent, it goes from one dream world to another. If the film is supposed to be a class conscious parable – about the clueless, idle rich who get their comeuppance when they lose their money, that doesn’t come across either – as Gondry seems to love his characters too much to really make them look bad, even as puts them through hell. If it’s just supposed to be all about the emotions – of love and loss – that never comes across either, as the film is so obsessed with its surfaces, that it never gets below them.

The film has other problems – the length kills the movie, as it is nearly impossible to sustain this level of whimsy for so long. Duris and Tautou – and their co-stars – are a little too old for me to believe they would be this naïve about the real world – and poor Tautou, who is a talented actress, seems to be forever pigeonholed as Amelie, with no chance to escape.

There are moments in Mood Indigo that are breathtaking to look at. Gondry remains an inventive director – and there is evidence of that throughout Mood Indigo. But in this film, there is just too much here – and Gondry indulges his every whim, and takes what should be a fun little film, and turns it into a one, long slog.

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