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Other // Unrated // July 18, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
Some of us haven't seen very many Michel Gondry films, myself included. However, I did have the pleasure of seeing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is a truly masterful piece of filmmaking that constantly remains fresh in my mind. It's an incredible cinematic journey that should be experienced by all. Even if you haven't been following his career since then, this piece of coverage will be bringing him back into the conversation. His most recent motion picture Mood Indigo is finally hitting American cinemas over a year after its original debut in France. From a glance, this project looks like an excellent opportunity for Gondry, but what I got was something much less sincere than I bargained for.
Colin (Romain Duris) is a wealthy and inventive bachelor who has a comfortable-enough lifestyle to never have to work. One day, he falls in love with the beautiful Chloé (Audrey Tautou), but she becomes diagnosed with a strange illness caused by a plant growing in her lung. Colin must find a way to cure her of this illness, so that they can live their lives happily ever after, but his journey for love will cost him a lot of money, as well as a fair share of sanity.
Within the first two minutes of the film. you'll already feel utterly overwhelmed. Writer/director Michel Gondry and co-writer Luc Bossi try to toss as much "quirkiness" our way until we're on the verge of throwing it all back up. Very little of it makes sense, as it tries to be as vibrant and obnoxious as it could possibly be. My first thoughts were that this better not be the tone of the entire picture. Fortunately, it slows down a little bit, but only after it introduces elements such as a man in a mouse costume and a "pianocktail," which is a piano that makes cocktails while you play it. You'll get the constant sense that the film thinks that it's much more charming than it actually is. It's quite confusing whether it's attempting to get some laughs or if it's simply trying that hard to get our attention. Either way, the overall quirky tone is a complete misfire that already sets a possibly intriguing picture up for a dreaded failure.
Once the over-the-top quirkiness calms down, the revelation of Chloé's illness is presented. With such a serious topic, it would make sense to explore the feelings of the two leads. However, Gondry keeps us at a distance that refrains us from caring too much for either of them. This lack of warmth makes it incredibly difficult to find this romance convincing, and this is the element that the entire picture depends upon. The lack of immersion makes for some rough pacing, even though this is the shorter American cut. Once one reaches the mid-point of the second act, it becomes quite difficult to not want to check your watch every fifteen minutes or so. The running time may be short, but it most certainly doesn't feel it. Perhaps with a bit of a more genuine tone, this could have proven to be a well-composed and thoughtful romantic drama, but it's all buried under way too much style.
Not only is there a romance at the bottom here, but also a story about loneliness and the desire for companionship. While we never get the chance to get as close to Colin as we would like, there are moments when the film displays its sincerity. This comes across in the more quiet and subtle sequences, such as when Colin and Chloé lay in bed and hum tunes that they were once accustomed to hearing until she begins to cough uncontrollably. Colin tries to comfort her, but with no success. This love is all rooted back to Colin's obsession with finding his one true love, and now that he has found her, she's being harmed by an unusual illness. These are the picture's most successful moments. It's just a shame that they come in such small numbers. This film doesn't need any of the distracting visuals, especially when it has something worth exploring at its core. Not every film has that.
However, many of these more honest scenes wouldn't have been made possible without a cast to deliver these subtleties. Romain Duris is the right man to play Colin. He clearly understands how to portray emotions that aren't written within the dialogue, making for a character that we want to know more about. Audrey Tautou is quite believable in the role of Chloé. Even though she doesn't get as many opportunities to display much of a range, she still feels rather authentic. Omar Sy is great as Nicolas, as he makes what could have been an ordinary character into an intriguing one that has a lot to offer the picture. Even though Gondry and Bossi's screenplay doesn't work very well, the actors have successfully pulled what emotion they could out of this material.
Given that Gondry's over-the-top visual style irritated me to no end, it looks quite good. If I was shown this work apart from the picture as a visual project, then I would be rather impressed. The production design is absolutely wonderful, as the environments truly come to life on screen. The score also offers the film another dimension that wouldn't have been there otherwise. If you're simply looking for an intriguing visual design, then you have found your feature. It truly is a great looking piece of cinema, but it covers up what's truly important. You can tell that almost all of the planning went towards the visual design, rather than the storytelling.
Filmmaker Michel Gondry has most certainly developed a visual style that is truly a feast for the eyes. This holds true for his newest motion picture Mood Indigo, although there is such a large amount of quirkiness that often feels overbearing. Gondry and Bossi's screenplay lacks the emotional depth that would have truly allowed the picture to soar. Colin and Chloé's true relationship rarely shines through it all. There are more subtle moments when the audience becomes immersed in this love story, but Gondry is pull us back to a distance. Mood Indigo looks great, but lacks true emotion. Rent it.