Mood Indigo, comedic fantasy, not rated, in French with subtitles, Jean Cocteau Cinema, 3.5 chiles It helps not to overthink the characters’ circumstances in Mood Indigo, the latest farce from Michel Gondry ( Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Based on Boris Vian’s 1947 novel L’écume des jours (Foam of the Days), the film tells the simple, if bizarre, story of Colin and Chloé, two sweet-natured but socially inept dreamers, and their ever-present friends. Inventive visuals lend this fable of doomed love a magical, surreal quality.
The stellar cast includes Audrey Tautou as Chloé, a role she seems predestined for; Romain Duris ( The Beat That My Heart Skipped) as the hapless Colin; Omar Sy ( The Intouchables) as Nicolas, a fanciful chef and Colin’s confidant, who bandies about on bent, elongated legs, creating scrumptious meals like some kind of cheerful kitchen fairy; and Gad Elmaleh as Chick, a man obsessed with the nonsensical but serioussounding pronouncements of philosopher Jean-Sol Partre.
Despite a catchy jazz score featuring Duke Ellington and a certain steampunk sensibility, the setting is decidedly contemporary, even though it appears that the cast exists in a sort of alternate reality where impossible physical contortions are possible and inanimate objects are animated. After Colin and Chloé’s touching engagement and marriage, just when the kinetic action and fanciful effects threaten to overwhelm the story, Mood Indigo takes a somber, moving turn. Chloé is diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness: she has a waterlily growing inside her lung. The only way to stop it is for Colin to continually surround her with flowers.
A wealthy inventor, Colin is forced to find a job to support his dying bride and ends up working as a kind of human guinea pig in militarized agricultural experiments. He manages to get himself fired and then chased by his own shadow in one of the film’s best set pieces. All of this seems quite ridiculous. It works, though, thanks to the superb characters, who are so genuinely likable that we feel for them in their predicament, crazy as it is.
Mood Indigo unabashedly claims its absurdities without explanation or apology and is a delightful romp by a seasoned director noted for some oddball films, including Eternal Sunshine and 2006’s equally wondrous The Science of Sleep. Cast members take the ever-shifting realities of the universe they inhabit in stride, as if it’s all routine. When Chloé challenges Colin to come up with the dullest, most normal thing he can think of, the scene unfolds with a weird irony. Nothing is normal in Mood Indigo, and nothing is quite as it seems.