Wednesday, June 25, 2014

OCFF 2014 Review: MOOD INDIGO - Javi's Take


Directed by: Michel Gondry
Written by: Michel Gondry, Luc Bossi,  with story by Boris Vian
Starring: Romain Duris, Audrey Tatou, Omar Sy, Gad Elmaleh, Aissa Maiga
Starring: The visually stunning story of a man and his courtship of a woman and their subsequent marriage.

Michel Gondry has made some of the most important movies of a generation. Between ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and SCIENCE OF SLEEP, he has created these fantastical and heartbreaking worlds where the metaphorical is the literal and dreams seem much more real than reality. The other movies in his filmography are similarly whimsical, but they always seemed to be....reeled in. MOOD INDIGO is Gondry unfiltered for all of its wonders and faults that ultimately lead to a strangely detached and dark story.

The story deals with Colin, an inexplicably wealthy eccentric who is literally taken care of by his mentor and lawyer, Nicolas. His best friend, Chik, is a nerd collector that is obsessed with a writer, Jean-Sol Partre, who happens to be dating Nicolas' niece Alise. Before long, he meets Chloe, who appears to be a Duke Ellington song come to life. All of this takes place in a world where a pianocktail, a piano that makes cocktails depending on the volume and the notes that are being played, exists. Add in a million and one different little details such as pastries being served in little ovens, and you have one of the most visually fulfilling worlds ever. It also helps that Gondry chooses to eschew any and all CGI, but instead, he chooses to use split screen, stop motion animation, and other analog visual effects that gives this movie a very special look.

The movie's plot is simple but, thanks to the visual design, is a very tiring experience. It's almost like the visuals completely overwhelm the senses in a way that isn't actually all justified. The thing about our starring duo is that Colin and Chloe are such blank slates, and it's difficult to care about them. Colin especially is a very hard guy to relate to. At the beginning of the movie, Colin and Nicolas by proxy have a highly wasteful life. Instead of putting away the dishes they push them aside off the table, let them break and then sweep them away. There's even a hint that Colin has gone after Chick's girlfriends or love interests before. So, basically, he's kind of a jackass. Then Chloe is only seen Colin's love interest, so she's quirky, cute, and very happy. One could only wonder whether these characters are MEANT to be blank slates for the sake of being relatable? However, it doesn't feel like that's the case.

There is something strange in the way that Gondry depicts happiness and wealth. As the movie goes along, there's a point where Colin's money is being spent quicker than he thought between costs relating to a tragedy and giving Chick a quarter of his money to marry Alise. The correlation between wealth, extravagance and happiness is high in this movie. Life only seems to be bright, shiny and quirky when you have unlimited amounts of money and resources that you can spend with reckless abandon. Meanwhile, it takes a harsh look at the working class as this soul-draining endeavor, which in all fairness it can be, but the way that it's portrayed in the movie  feels strangely juvenile just due to how exaggerated the working life is made out to be. 

For as gloomy as the movie is, it's interesting that the dark and tragic aspect of the movie doesn't work so well for the main couple, but it works better for Chick and Alise. Chick's obsession with the writer takes on an almost addict level where he seeks out each and every literature and book and memorabilia of his to the point of spending the gift that Colin gave him on the books instead of doing the right thing and marry Alise. This obsession ends up turning tragic and becomes one of the most interesting portrayals of nerd-like obsessions. In a world where geek culture and its various aspects such as collecting, this storyline feels strangely relevant. 

MOOD INDIGO is such a mixed bag it will definitely be a controversial movie. On one hand it is a gorgeous movie that has its own really unique aesthetic, but its characters leave a lot to be desired of. The movie could serve as a cautionary tale for when a director is let off his leash and whether it is ultimately a good thing or not. Regardless, it is yet another entry in one of the best directors working today.

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