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Mood Indigo: Can Senseless Make Sense?

Director Michel Gondry (far left) works with the art department to create practical effects on the set of “Mood Indigo.” Photo credit: . Brio Films

I like to consider myself an open-minded film viewer, eager to enjoy both story nuances and visual feasts simultaneous. Tense drama? I’m prepared. Slapstick comedy? My funny bone is extremely ticklish. Action-adventure? Take me along for the ride.

I am equally open to “art movies” and was excited to learn of Michal Gondry’s latest feature, “Mood Indigo.” I adored “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Watching Joel (Jim Carrey) realize he made a mistake in hiring a mind-erasing company to remove every memory of his past lover Clementine (Kate Winslet) and then push his subconscious self to the earliest memories of his childhood, trying to hide a fragment of their loving relationship was a heart-wrenching yet beautiful marvel. Recognizing Gondry was returning to the world of love in “Mood Indigo” – where creative inventor Colin (Romain Duris) discovers the love of his life, Chloe (Audrey Tautou) has a flower growing in her heart and needs to surround her with fresh blossoms to keep her alive – seemed like it had the promise to rise to the emotional levels of “Sunshine.”

The film opens with a scene that I considered some off-hand homage to “Brazil” – a crazy assembly line of factory workers (apparently set in the 1950s) are collectively writing the love story between Colin and Chloe. Each worker types a word (or a letter) on typewriters that travel before them on an assembly line. The scene is meant to prepare you for the unusual world you are about to experience, where little makes sense. This is what I failed to embrace while I was watching the movie. I anticipated a story line, albeit a strange and twisted one that would usher me through the relationship of Colin and Chloe.

Known for forgoing VFX wizardry and utilizing camera tricks and practical effects instead, I was anticipating some very clever visuals. On this front, the film certainly doesn’t disappoint. Within the first ten minutes, Colin dances through sunlight rays that pour through his window like piano strings (literally), an eel jumps from a pan of bubbling water and slithers between the faucets of the kitchen sink, plates dance around a kitchen table, and a doorbell sneaks down the wall and around the kitchen floor like a cockroach. There is also a “man mouse” (mouse sized, but a man in a mouse costume) that helps Colin keep his affairs in order. Again, I was being offered something by the director that I failed to grasp the sense of. Colin, desperate to find true love, was living in a fairy tale, filled with crazy inventions and gadgets of little use and a truckload of whimsy.

When I first experienced “Mood Indigo” I was extremely disappointed. What I failed to recognize was the fact that I have grown to accustomed to sharp story-telling and character development. I’ve become inpatient with content that doesn’t have the dramatic impact as, say, “Breaking Bad” or presents character development the way “Game of Thrones” does. (Maybe I’ve become a little too adjusted to dark content.) I angrily told a colleague “It’s one big art school film filled with senseless, weird dancing and crazy concoctions.”

However, I did think more about the experience I had with this film, and my feelings towards those art school film projects I was involved with long ago. With no budget but bushels of enthusiasm and creativity, the artist will utilize any material at hand to share a vision or a feeling. I can imagine Gondry wanted the viewer to experience the joy of falling in love for the first time. Child-like images and fanciful gadgets are akin to the innocents of a young, developing and all -encompassing love. The colors are bright and magical through the early part of the film, and a shift does change that is in accordance to the story (I shall avoid spoilers.) It’s a creative spectacle that requires the viewer to simply let go of everything and experience an artistic representation of a blissful world.

“Mood Indigo” has shown me I am not as open-minded as I thought I was. I’ll have to give this film another go, where I embrace the senselessness of the story to see if I can be romanced by Gondry’s whimsy. After all, if my analysis is right, I would like to experience that child-like emotion of first love once again.