Sunday, August 03, 2014

FILM :: Mood Indigo (L'écume des jours): melancholic surrealism where not all is as it seems (QFT until 14 Aug)

Colin lives in Paris in a parallel universe. Played by Romain Duris, he’s terribly French and feels that his solitude is unfair. A solitude that includes a live-in cook Nicholas (Omar Sy), and a vegetable-growing mouse who scoots about the house – itself a train carriage lodged between two buildings – in a series of tubes, and occasionally a car! But a solitude that lacks a significant other.

At a dog’s party, Colin meets Chloé (Audrey Tautou). [Watch out of the Amélie red dress!] Soon they are on cloud nine travelling across Paris in a cloud-shaped vehicle with a dome windshield. This was the point that reminded me of The Science of Sleep (La Science des rêves), a film I dragged an un-convinced colleague* to in London seven and a half years ago. And sure enough Mood Indigo and The Science of Sleep are both directed by Michel Gondry. [* Norwin blogs at Destroy All Onions]

Themes and common imagery abound: typesetting, clouds, beds and angsty love. Just without the cardboard cars this time. Instead there’s a pianocktail created by Colin that makes a drink based on how you tickle its ivories.

After a cross between a ghost train ride and a religious ceremony, the happy couple go on honeymoon. Chloé falls ill and Colin’s world visibly shrinks as his true love weakens. While the disease and its cure are equally surreal, the declining health takes its toll on Colin’s soundness of mind and dwindling finances.

Mood Indigo is let down by less than three dimensional characters who remain flat and limp throughout the largely surreal and constantly imaginative scenes. The spark between Colin and Chloé is not terribly bright. Perhaps the most vivid person is Alise, the long-suffering girlfriend of Colin’s buddy Chick (who compulsively collects anything connected with the writer Jean-Sol Partre).

Ultimately, while the props and effects are mesmerising, and the fantasy world is intriguing, I left the QFT screen after ninety five minutes unfulfilled by the melancholic love story at the centre of the plot. Bittersweet but shallow.

Yet quirky Michel Gondry films are few and far between, so for that reason – and also for the near-Monty Python moment near the end at which the audience erupts with inappropriate laughter – it’s worth going along to see Mood Indigo at the Queen’s Film Theatre between now and the 14 August.

No comments: