Monday, July 14, 2014

MOOD INDIGO gives us Michel Gondry at his most bizarre (and that's going some!)

This may be the polarizing movie of the year -- if what happened at our house is any indication. TrustMovies had already seen the film once but wanted to watch again because of the density of the highly imaginative visuals and the very heavy-duty subtitles. I can usually guess fairly closely what will amuse my spouse, and I would have picked this film as a sure bet. Barely a few minutes into it, however, I could see I was dead wrong. After maybe a half hour, Spousie asked me, please, to pause the film for a moment, which I did. "This is the biggest piece of crap I've sever seen," he declared and left the room. I love this movie, MOOD INDIGO, crazy as it is, and so I finished that second viewing alone.

I also love the crazy and surprisingly versatile moviemaker, Michel Gondry, shown at left, who is responsible for this oddity. Gondry makes such unusual, deeply-felt yet very different types of films that you could almost declare a new genre, the Gondry, into which each of his films would fit. Mood Indigo may seem most like the fellow's earlier The Science of Sleep, a movie he wrote and directed all on his own. This new one is a collaboration between Mr. G. and Luc Bossi, based on the novel, L'écume des jours, by Boris Vian.

Not having read Vian's novel, I can only talk about the movie-as-movie, but there's plenty to be said. Vian evidently invented some of his own words to fill the gap separating what our current language offered from what he felt was needed. Gondry & Bossi use some of those words, I think, but do much more with their own invented visual contraptions that make the world of Mood Indigo so like our own and yet so very far afield. From the cocktails created by the notes of a piano to the new dance in which one's legs and body expand in the oddest ways to the philosopher du jour, one Jean Sol Partre (yes, you get it!) this new world is as full of wonders as any you'll have ever seen.

All this makes the first half of the film a non-stop delight, as our hero Colin (played by Romain Duris, above, left) and his two close friends Nicolas (Omar Sy, below) and Chick (Gad Elmaleh, shown at bottom, left) find romance with, respectively, Chloé  (Audrey Tautou, above, right) Isis (Charlotte LeBon) and Alise (Aïssa Maïga, shown at bottom, right).  It seems there is little else in this world but romance and parties and an inexhaustible amount of cash. Then, midway, things begin to turn dark, as Chloé becomes ill, visits doctors, and finally slips away.

While the doctors here are mostly loonies, as is the local priest (so much for medicine and the church), philosophy, in the person of M. Partre (Phillippe Torreton, below), seems shallow at best and proves the downfall of Chick, who spends all of his (and Colin's) money buying what can only be called Partre "collectibles." Eventually, Colin is reduced to working to pay the medical bills at a job in which both the product and the workplace are sour and forbidding (so much for the military, too).

Visually, the film is so stunningly inventive and amazing to watch that only afterward will you begin to wonder what it might all mean. You could find the trip from sunny, if empty, pleasure through bleak, forbidding pain as some kind of metaphor for the lives we silly humans seem to lead.

Yet the beginning, as a bevy of typists tell the story of Colin and his life by typing a few lines and then passing the paper on the next person, would seem to indicate the total haphazardness of life. (When Colin tries to insert himself into the typing pool in an attempt to control his own life, he has little luck.)

You can also see the film as a swan song for either or both our environment and the final days of Capitalism run amok, with our cast a part of the soon-to-disappear middle class. Whatever meaning you might choose, Mood Indigo is finally more a film to be savored for its visual imagination and daring rather than for its message.

The movie -- distributed in the USA via Drafthouse Films and running a relatively swift 94 minutes -- opens this Friday, July 18, in Los Angeles at the Landmark NuArt theater and in the New York City at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema. In the weeks and months to come, the film will hit most major cities across the country. Click here, then scroll down, to see all the currently scheduled playdates and theaters.

No comments: