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Mood Indigo


Stars: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Omar Sy, Aissa Maiga, Charlotte le Bon, Sacha Bourdo, Philippe Torreton, Vincent Rottiers, Laurent Lafitte, Natacha Regnier, Zinedine Soualem, Alain Chabat

Director: Michel Gondry

What’s a critic going to do? In a week in which strictly-for-multiplex movies (The Nut Job, Guardians of the Galaxy, Step Up 5: All In) are in the majority, any reviewer worthy of his privileged access to free films should be praising any or all art movies.

So it really hurts me to have to say that while Michel Gondry’s undoubtedly inventive but ultimately irritating fantasy (based on Boris Vian’s cult novel “Froth on a Daydream”) is undoubtedly an art movie – subtitled and without a Hollywood star in sight – invention peters out long before the end.

Like Camille and the opera La Boheme before it, the basic story is about a man and woman who fall in love, only for her to die before her time.

But where, in the film and the opera, tuberculosis was the cause of the early death, here heroine Audrey Tautou (named Chloe because she “seems like the physical embodiment of the eponymous Duke Ellington tune”) dies because of the water lily growing in her lung. Which forces her husband Romain Duris to take on a series of absurd jobs to pay the medical bills while all around them their friends go to pieces as does their apartment and the film segues into appropriate-to-the-theme monochrome…

Whimsy runs riot. Far too much whimsy, including a miniature man in a mouse suit who inhabits Duris’ apartment, a live eel emerging from the kitchen tap, a bizarre piano which, when played, mixes cocktails (the loud pedal adds egg to the mixture), a diary in the weird form of a black and white Rubik-style cube and a walking doorbell that scuttles about the place. And Duris servant/lawyer (Omar Sy) adds to the surreal chaos with food that moves on its own accord while gravity-defying dances with lengthened limbs are frequently a la mode.

Outside the flat, Duris and Tautou fly high above Paris in a combination wooden swan cum-cloud, a room changes shape (“The music is making the room round") and we watch a skater grow to incredible length – a sadly appropriate description of Gondry’s film which leaves you wondering more about how the special effects were achieved than worrying about the fates of the protagonists.

Gondry (who adapted the novel with Luc Bossi) clearly (like his overrated 2004 English language daydream Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) has faith in his vision and has been well served by his actors and movie magicians.

In the end though, Duke Ellington’s music best serves him on the soundtrack: Mood Indigo opens endearingly with ‘Take the A Train’. What a pity it never manages to live up to it.

Alan Frank

France/Belgium 2013. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour.
94 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 31 Jul 2014