Friday, 13 September 2013
FILM REVIEW: MOOD INDIGO
French filmmaker Michel Gondry's latest film, Mood Indigo, screened earlier this year at the Sydney Film Festival in an incarnation clocking in at 130 minutes. Somewhere between those June screenings and its Australian release this week, it was decided the film's running time should be reduced*.
And while I don't know what plotting and characters my have been cut from the film along with those 36 minutes, my first thought upon leaving the cinema (actually, during the film) was "thank god it's only 94 minutes!"
Based on a 1947 cult novel (L'Écume des Jours, then given the English title, Froth On A Daydream) by Boris Vian (and adapted here by Gondry), Mood Indigo is essentially the tale of ill-fated love between Colin (Romain Duris), an independently wealthy man, and Chloe (Audrey Tautou).
The two enjoy a whirlwind courtship before marrying, and it's whilst on their countryside honeymoon that Chloe is infected: a water lily takes root in her lung (although I thought it was a snowflake and that Chloe would turn cold toward her doting husband as a result). There is no cure -- Chloe will die -- but her death can be delayed by the medicinal use of other flowers.
Chloe's mounting medical (and florist) bills force the now melancholic Colin to do something he's never done before: seek employment, which he does in a factory where, if my understanding is correct, laser guns are forged from mounds of dirt through the heat generated by naked men laid atop them (?).
You can understand how Michel Gondry must have been drawn to the quirk and whimsy of the original story, and the opportunity it affords him to deploy his playful visual style. Colin lives in what looks like a disused cable car and his home boasts several inventions (a pianocktail; arachnid doorbells), as well as a pet mouse and a laconic ladies man and lawyer-turned-chef, Nicolas (The Intouchables' Omar Sy).
But there seems to be too much quirk, whimsy and style in Mood Indigo and not nearly enough heart. Doomed love is only affecting if we're invested in the lovers, but as pretty a couple as Duris and Tautou make, I couldn't care less about the fates of Colin and Chloe.
If I wanted to be literal -- and unkind -- I could suggest that the take away from Mood Indigo is that love will bleed you dry, emotionally and financially. I'm sure that's not the point of Gondry's film, nor of the two previous film adaptations (one French, one Japanese) -- or the opera -- all inspired by Vian's novel.
But for a more rewarding Gondry film about love's labours won and lost, I'd recommend revisiting Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004); a bitter sweet love story whose protagonists we care deeply about.
*This shorter version of the film will be releasing in all international territories outside of France, where the film has already opened.