Flower power

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Michael Abatemarco The New Mex­i­can

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.


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