DVD Review: 'Mood Indigo'

★☆☆☆☆
After having his expressive wings clipped in exchange for genre formula with The Green Hornet (2011) and relinquishing his creative control to a group of Bronx school kids in his collaborative teen comedy The We and the I (2012), Michel Gondry returns to the land of the fantastical with comic drama Mood Indigo (2013). Pitting together two of contemporary French cinema’s most prominent actors – Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris, Gondry attempts to fashion a visual representation of the golden period that immediately follows falling in love, yet in abandoning rhyme or reason in his construction of such a vivid world Gondry has made something almost entirely incomprehensible.

Duris plays Colin, a wealthy bachelor with a penchant for wacky inventions who, after his usually lonesome friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh) falls for Alise (Aïssa Maïga), goes about trying to find love. One night, at a party he stumbles into Chloé (Tautou), a fellow singleton hoping to find companionship. The two immediately hit it off and are soon married. However, events turn dour and their nuptials are threatened when Chloé is diagnosed with an unusual illness brought upon by a flower growing in her lungs. Imbued with the various visual proclivities for which he has now become widely known: stop-motion animation, a dizzying colour palette, anthropomorphic objects, etc. – Mood Indigo is the nadir of Gondry’s career thus far, an unabashedly whimsical folly that revels in zaniness for zaniness’ sake.

Very much Un film de Michel Gondry, Mood Indigo is steeped in unbridled imagination. However, the film's malnourished narrative struggles to accommodate Gondry's capricious approach, instead allowing such madcap non-sequiturs to just merely exist without reason or context. This ranges from a miniature man in a mouse costume to cloud mobiles, via bandy-legged dancing to the music of Duke Ellington. In fact, Ellington could be a precise point of comparison in that the film seems to almost mirror the types of lyrical lurches the jazz musician played so beautifully; a technique that’s made intolerable here in a world where gravitational rules don’t exist and seemingly anything goes.

As vibrant as the opening half of Mood Indigo is, whatever engagement it entices is undermined by a gradual tonal shift that is jarring in its depiction of reality piercing through the creative bubble - regardless of how outré Chloé’s affliction is. If Mood Indigo had been the adventurous debut of a filmmaker who hadn’t, in the past, created easily one of the most absorbingly offbeat and subtle romances of the past decade in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), then it could be forgiven for overegging the ingenuity. Yet this is a work of pure unhindered indulgence from a director who’s probably churned out the worst product of his career by pining for a fabricated, romanticised world that’ll never be.

Edward Frost | @Frost_Ed

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