From the very beginning of Mood Indigo to the very end it’s like a box of magic has been unlocked to release all sorts of strange and fantastical things. Eels slide out of taps, doorbells scuttle down walls like beetles, a miniature garden grows inside a kitchen drawer, food dances on a plate, a piano makes cocktails and people stretch and contort like the space they live in. If that all sounds weird, it definitely is, but it’s also quite wonderful.
This is a trip through the imagination of director Michel Dondry whose Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was another unconventional and inventive love story. Mood Indigo is based on a magic-realist novel by French author Boris Vian and uses visual effects such as stop-motion and puppetry to reflect the changing emotions of its two main characters.
Colin (Romain Duris) and Chloe (Audrey Tautou) fall in love and enjoy a whirlwind romance that defies gravity and all other physical laws of nature. They float above a fantasy version of Paris in a cloud-shaped flying saucer and marry in an underwater wedding. On their honeymoon Chloe falls ill with a waterlily growing in her lung and as her condition worsens the colour drains away from the film and the sets become nightmare scenes of decay and desolation.
Omar Sy from The intouchables is memorable as Colin’s friend and personal chef, and Gondry himself plays a cameo as the doctor. You can wonder about existential meanings (Jean-Sol Partre puts in an appearance) and symbolism, but in the end it’s a story about love and loss. You won’t see a more visually imaginative film at Arthouse this summer, but that doesn’t detract from a poignant and moving love story.