It is important to know before going in to see Mood Indigo that it is the Frenchest movie ever made.
Jules And Jim is less French than Mood Indigo. City Of The Lost Children looks like a chilly exercise in Teutonic reserve next to it. The Triplets Of Belleville looks as restrained as a Merchant And Ivory production. M. Hulot hopelessly American.
Mood Indigo is Frencher than Maurice Chevalier singing “Aux Champs Elysees” using the skull of Charles De Gaulle for percussion. Just so you know.
Michel Gondry has never been accused of restraint… ever. But he reaches giddy new heights indulgence with Mood Indigo. It is difficult to accurately describe just how stylized the movie is, but every corner of every frame is filled with decoration. Nearly everything in Gondry’s universe is sentient and the drinks are made with Pianos. Imagine if Pee Wee’s Playhouse was about a French dilettante rather than… however one wishes to describe Pee Wee, and you’re about halfway there. A wealthy French playboy meets the girl of his dreams, falls in love and marries her. Occasionally they travel around Paris on a private cloud, grow long rubbery limbs (the better to dance to Duke Ellington with) and generally behave very very French indeed. It’s not merely whimsical, or even Whimsical. But WHIMSICAL. This is the sort of film that constantly cuts away to a grown man dressed as a mouse. There is so much infectious bustling life in Gondry’s cheerful analogue universe that it’s hard to complain without feeling like a hard hearted bastard. And Gondry’s enthusiasm for the project manages to keep things exciting rather than exhausting, if only just.
The back half of the film makes a hairpin turn from the most carefree film ever made to a relentless pile on of misery, all while sustaining its inexorable Gallicness. This is the film that does not merely kill Audrey Tautou, but dumps her body in a swamp. The thing that saves Mood Indigo is the pursuit of this bizarre roller coaster structure with the unwavering lunatic conviction. The film is fascinating as an exercise in chasing an aesthetic as far as it can go and into any circumstances, whether said circumstances are “Nothing can go wrong” or “Nothing will ever be right”. And then Jean Paul Sarte comes to a lecture riding a giant robot of himself. No really.
This is definitely Michel Gondry’s strongest film since Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. That is not the highest of bars to clear, you’re either going to be in or out. There’s no middle ground and after a bit of internal debate I was ultimately in. Things feel a bit choppy now and then, but that’s pretty much unavoidable both given the anarchic nature of the film. The cut I viewed at Fantastic Fest was also for some mystifying reason a full half an hour shorter than the international cut.
Still as someone who values Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind as I value very few other films and had anticipated a long relationship with its director that never panned out, I couldn’t help but be somewhat disappointed with Mood Indigo even as I grinned along with it. Gondry’s films were better when they had people in them.