Mood Indigo: A phantasmagoria of jazz, tragedy & fantasy

One of the many quirky scenes in the film
An atypical love blossoms between Colin and Chloe
An atypical love blossoms between Colin and Chloe

Michel Gondry’s new film ventures into melancholy and returns to his adventurous styling of fantasy and drama

It may seem incredible to some that despair and hope can co-exist in a romance, but Michel Gondry’s latest film does exactly that to great acclaim.

All too many rom-coms (romantic comedies) use a similar mould but Mood Indigo takes you on the whirlwind reality of a relationship and all the perks, quirkiness and trouble it brings, alongside the magical effects and fantasy that only Gondry can create.

Happily Ever After?

Romain Duris (of The Spanish Apartment trilogy including the recent instalment, Chinese Puzzle) is a French actor who plays the leading role of Colin, a wealthy and idealistic young inventor, who invents a cocktail-mixing piano, a “pianocktail”. [Classic Gondry]

Colin decides that he is incredibly lonely with no one to care for and no one to love after his best friend, Chick (played by Gad Elmaleh of Priceless and Midnight in Paris), breaks the news to him that he has fallen in love.

While attending a party with Chick and his lawyer, Nicolas (Omar Sy of The Intouchables), Colin meets the stunningly beautiful Chloe, played by the effervescent Audrey Tautou (of Amelie and Coco Before Chanel).

Despite all of Colin’s insecurities and quirks, Chloe quickly falls in love with him and they get married; a seemingly blissful end to a picture-perfect encounter.

In the Name of Love

Not long after the marriage begins, Chloe falls prey to a very unusual illness, which Colin vows to fight – even if it costs him everything that he owns in life.

Their idyllic marriage is turned on its head when Chloe discovers that she has a water lily growing in her lung. In order to make ends meet, Colin goes on a series of increasingly ridiculous and absurd jobs to earn enough for her treatment.

While all this is happening, their apartment begins to disintegrate, including their friendship with Nicolas and Chick.

The Origins of the Story

The French title for the film is L’Ecume des Jours, adapted from renowned author Boris Vian’s novel of the post-war, jazz-loving and pipe-smoking epoch of a fantastical Paris.

The novel itself was actually inspired by a jazz arrangement done by Duke Ellington entitled “Mood Indigo”, which was lauded during its 1930 release for having an “upside down” arrangement where muted instruments played at an opposite pitch of what they were supposed to.

The intricacies of this arrangement seem to be incarnate in Chloe, who appears to be the personification of this tune, making this another classic touch by Michel Gondry, famed for using literal personifications to communicate the setting of the film.

One of the many quirky scenes in the film
One of the many quirky scenes in the film

A Connection of Livelihoods

“Mood Indigo”, the Duke Ellington tune, is a perfect fit for the mood and setting of the film, which utilises all of the masterful creations that Gondry conceptualises so well – a rom-com coupled with a descent into mild madness and a dreamy bizarreness.

The film gives us a whiff of science fiction and phantasmagoria that only Gondry can deliver, with literal interpretations of the feelings we endure when we’re in relationships.

Critics and movie-goers have also heaped praises on this production, calling it Gondry’s most accomplished and powerful film in almost a decade.

Like it or not, it’s a film not to be missed.

Mood Indigo [PG]

Director: Michel Gondry

Starring: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Omar Sy and Gad Elmaleh

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Run Length: 125 min

Release: Jan 23