Chloe (Audrey Tautou) suffers from an unusual illness caused by a flower growing in her lungs. But a kindhearted dreamer named Colin (Romain Duris) crosses paths with the pretty, quick-witted gal, and after much wooing, manages to win her over.
Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo begins with a series of scenes that are so fanciful, whimsical and gorgeously illogical that it’s almost inevitable the viewer will feel cheated and confused when the story suddenly turns dark and tragic, succumbing to the everyday logic of money worries, ageing and mortality.
Gondry struggles with character development and is unable to gracefully move from joyful to tragic tones.
Colin (Romain Duris) is a handsome and inventive young man, 'wealthy enough that he doesn’t have to work". He lives in a magical house, a kind of train carriage suspended between two buildings, where tiny mice-men do the housework, and extravagant meals are prepared by Colin’s lawyer-cum-butler, Nicolas (Omar Sy in the most charismatic performance of the film). Nicolas creates recipes with the assistance of a television chef who can reach out of the screen to lend a hand. Dishes are never washed; they are simply smashed as they roll off the undulating conveyer belt of the dinner table. Cocktail hour is a serious affair, with drinks concocted on Colin’s 'pianocktail’ – a piano that mixes according to the mood of the music that’s played. Duke Ellington’s jazz (in particular 'Mood Indigo’) plays an integral role in the soundscape.
When Colin falls in love at a party with Chloé (Audrey Tautou), there’s a whirlwind romance, including a joyride floating above Paris in a cloud-like bubble; and a wedding that takes in a roller-coaster race to the ceremony and an underwater procession after the nuptials. But on the honeymoon tragedy strikes: a floating waterlily spoor takes root in Chloé’s lung, and thus begins a long and serious illness. The treatment requires mountains of revolting metallic pills and expensive fresh flowers, which wither upon contact with her chest – a beautiful visual metaphor for cancer and the fraught treatments we endure to fight it. As the money runs out, Colin is forced into the world of work, literally selling his body warmth to 'grow’ guns.
Based on the 1947 novel L'écume des jours (Froth on the Daydream) by philosopher, inventor, novelist and jazz musician Boris Vian, Mood Indigo is full of Vian’s puns and spoonerisms (one of the characters is obsessed with the philosopher Jean-Sol Partre) and is overflowing with Gondry’s legendary homemade aesthetic. The director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep revels in details like the Perspex limousine, and the 'Biglemoi’ – an anatomy-defying dance that stretches the legs to absurd and obviously fake lengths. But Gondry struggles with character development and is unable to gracefully move from joyful to tragic tones. Tautou and Duris seem lost in their roles, unable to generate the necessary chemistry the grand love story requires.
The original 130 minute version of Mood Indigo (shown at Australian film festivals recently) has now been cut to 94 minutes for theatrical release, with Gondry’s direct involvement – apparently to make the film more accessible to those who haven’t read the book. Perhaps this explains the abrupt and unsatisfying final scenes. Yet for sheer spectacle and audacious originality, Mood Indigo should definitely be seen and applauded.