Starring Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, and Omar Sy
Directed by Michel Gondry
Run Time: 94 minutes
by Michael Clawson of Terminal Volume
Part quirky comedy, part Salvador Dalí surrealist fantasy, part Dr. Seuss dreamscape, Mood Indigo is probably best described by its scenarios, which are oddly fascinating, not to mention utterly baffling:
• A man takes a bath in purple water. When he's done he uses a power tool to drill through the bottom of the tub and the ceiling of the tenant below him. The grape-colored water drains through the holes into a flower pot, which then instantly sprouts a full-grown flower.
• Eels peek out of a kitchen faucet until a chef can grab them and prepare the squirmy little creatures for dinner. After dinner is prepared, the dishes spin and dance around the prep table until they can be carried to a wavy wooden dinner table with roller skates on the legs.
• Rows of typists frantically hammering on typewriters being moved down the line on conveyor belts. The text they're typing seems to be the thoughts and actions of the main character, who later, inexplicably, takes a job in the facility that likely represents his own brain.
• A device called a pianocktail works like mechanized bartender attached to a piano. As the keys are played — minor keys for more nostalgic drinks, major keys for more optimistic drinks — a little train carrying a glass circles the piano adding ingredients to the musically derived cocktail.
• A man uses a Rubik's Cube as a day planner. When asked about a day later in the week, he twists the sides until they line up for the day he's planning.
• When characters shake hands, their entire hands rotate at the wrist several revolutions.
• At a party someone brings out "oven-baked snacks," which are flaky pastries individually baked in miniature ovens.
• The bride and groom at a wedding are determined by an obstacle course involving boxcar racers with cross-shaped wheels. And the preacher arrives by parachuting out of an iron rocket that circles the inside of the church's cathedral.
• At an office building, a man passes a memo by crumpling it up, loading it into a large revolver and firing it into a tube that snakes through the building.
• When someone dies and their family can't afford a proper funeral, workers come to the house and remove the body by throwing the casket out the window. It's taken to the cemetery not by hearse, but by a delivery truck that belches smoke and soot.
• Two characters ride in a street-side amusement attraction, a fiberglass cloud hoisted up by a giant crane that can reach across all of France.
• A tiny mouse, played by a man in rodent costume, wanders throughout many scenes, including inside the kitchen, where he silently fetches items for the chef.
The french movie is certainly eccentric, and I've only scratched the surface on its odd scenes. It’s directed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry, because of course it is. Although it sounds too arty and symbolic for a plot, it does have one: Colin (Romain Duris) meets and falls in love with Chloé (Audrey Tautou, Amélie), named after his favorite Duke Ellington song. Deep into their relationship, she develops a water lily in her lung that cripples her and requires Colin to jump into gear to save her life.
Mood Indigo starts out pleasant enough, but doom and dread slowly creep into the whimsical mixture. This turn is gradual at first as the music switches keys and grows more ominous, then the shots get slow and steadier, and finally the color is sucked from the frame until the film ends in black and white. I wasn't ready for the sudden depression, but then again I wasn't ready for any of it.
While unique and visually fascinating, the film is hollow and lacks humanity and compassion. This is not the first time Gondry has out-dreamed his vision — recall the sad disappointment of Be Kind Rewind — but it's likely to be his most ambitiously visual picture, which is its own reward, great film or not.