Mood Indigo: Michel Gondry’s Visual Extravaganza

A man and a woman sitting on a bench

Only the crazy-haired director Michel Gondry has the nerve to adapt French author Boris Vian’s novel L’écume des jours to the screen. Literally meaning “Foam of the Days,” Vian’s novel has been translated to English 3 times, each with a slightly different title: Froth on the Daydream, Foam on the Daze, and Mood Indigo. It is this last translation that also serves as the title for the new film, which came out in New York and Los Angeles on July 18th.

Michel Gondry, to whom we already owe the excellent Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the less excellent The Science of Sleep, seems to have found in Vian’s novel all the material necessary to satisfy his brimming imagination and his thirst for eccentricity.

Colin (Romain Duris), a young man naturally brimming with creativity, lives in a house filled with bizarre inventions and is best friends with his cook, Nicolas (Omar Sy). One night, he meets the beautiful Chloé (Audrey Tautou), and the attraction is electric between the two, who end up marrying each other after some time. Their idyllic story comes to an end, however, when Chloé is diagnosed with a serious maladie: a water lily is growing in her lung. Her health rapidly declines and Colin juggles little odd jobs to be able to pay her steadily growing medical fees. Their friends seem just as affected by this terrible fate and their relationships slowly disintegrate, like Chick (Gad Elmaleh), a devoted fan of a certain Jean Sol Partre, and his fiancée Alise (Aïssa Maïga).

The wackiest inventions under Boris Vian’s pen come to life under the direction of Michel Gondry. Viewers find themselves suddenly captivated by the “pianocktail” who, despite several hesitant adjustments, has the surprising ability to prepare drinks while simultaneously playing a little melody.

All of the objects are animated. Nothing is stationary, like the water lily growing in Chloé’s lung and the test of time on the couple’s apartment. With zaniness, poetry, and humor, Michel Gondry tries to unite this particular universe with the universe of Boris Vian’s novel. The Audrey Tautou/Romain Duris duo–whose compatibility no longer needs to be proven ever since their collaboration in L’Auberge Espagnole by Cédric Clapish in 2002–is convincing, yet not marvellous.

It’s always difficult to adapt a work of literature to the big screen, but Michel Gondry manages rather well. The film, while remaining loyal to the novel, is above all a story of tastes: this universe can either be enchanting or dizzying.

The film won the award for Best Production Design at the 39th César Awards. A longer version of Mood Indigo also exists and was screened in several countries, including France. In the United States, the shorter version will be showing in theaters.



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