Michel Gondry's Mood Indigo Gets Richer as It Darkens
Mood Indigo is bitter candy, a heartbreaker that uses sugar as a trap. The director, Michel Gondry, has a brilliant, contradictory brain. He's a swoony pessimist, a big-dreaming romantic who believes in love at first sight but never lets his films end with a kiss. Instead, his idea of a happy ending in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, his best-known movie, is leads Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet listing all the ways they'll make each other miserable and then deciding to go for it anyway. He may be the most honest man in Hollywood.
Drafthouse Films Tautou, Duris, and their cartoonishly long legs dangling like tube socks stuffed with bliss.
Yet Gondry is wrongly considered a child. His films look as if they were glued together by a genius prodigy, the moviemaking Mozart of the second grade. When he takes us inside his characters' heads, especially in the ramshackle The Science of Sleep, he transforms adult emotions into tableaux of construction paper, cardboard, and tinfoil. So there's a tendency to think of him too as naive. He's not. He's merely in love with love, yet he knows -- even when his characters don't -- that their fantasies are flammable.
If Gondry truly wanted us to believe in the impossible, he'd either polish his dreams with CGI until we can't discern reality, or make normal-looking rom-coms with Reese Witherspoon. His handicrafts are a tell: They're never perfect. While they dazzle the eye, what matters are the moments in between, that gentle slap on the hand when the spell wears off and we see his characters left blinking and alone. On a smaller scale, Gondry walks the same tightrope as the grand, tragic operas that explode with feelings while still allowing the audience to creep close and cry. In making the world false, he exposes the truth: Love is glorious but fragile, and anyone who plunges into it has gone a little insane.
Still, the first half of Mood Indigo is so over-the-top magical that I worried if Gondry's good sense had leapt from the rafters. Romain Duris plays Colin, a rich bachelor who lives in a mansion with his best friends Chick (Gad Elmaleh) and Nicolas (Omar Sy). He displays only two emotions: delight and hunger. Like a charming narcissist, he believes -- rightly, in this case -- that the universe exists solely to please him. Offstage, a bullpen of assistants handles all of his needs, and because he's so wealthy he doesn't work, the days in his sunshiny home revolve around inventing things that don't need to exist, like a piano that pours cocktails, and enjoying luxurious meals after which the three friends don't wash the dishes but simply throw them away.