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May 6, 2015 — Corey Wagner
My first exposure to director Michel Gondry was his 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind , for which he won an Academy Award (Best Original Screenplay, as one of the co-writers). The acting and Gondry’s unique visual style help sell the movie’s unconventional take on the romantic-comedy. After that he wrote and directed the equally surreal The Science of Sleep in 2006, another movie I am very fond of. At this point, however, the quality of his output would dip more than a little.
First there was Be Kind Rewind in 2008, an inoffensive (but not particularly interesting) comedy starring Jack Black and Mos Def. The initial premise seemed interesting but it wasn’t enough to support a feature-length film. By the midpoint the film runs out steam. Gondry’s style was still there but significantly toned down; the surreal had been mostly replaced with goofiness. Unfortunately, Gondry’s next feature was not inoffensive.
Green Hornet is an entirely forgettable Seth Rogen Action(?)/Comedy movie. This was the first time Gondry really had a big budget to work with. Even with a budget greater than the rest of his feature films combined, Gondry couldn’t deliver anything remotely interesting. Even if Be Kind Rewind was lacking, it has a few memorable moments. The Green Hornet is uninteresting (and completely forgettable) in nearly every way.
Between The Green Hornet and Mood Indigo Gondry directed a low-budget film titled The We and the I. I didn’t actually know anything about this movie until recently, and since I haven’t seen it, I can’t really say much about it.
Mood Indigo is not only one of my favorite movies from the last couple of years, but it is also one of the films that inspired the creation of this blog. In the United States it was released in July of 2014, more than a year after it was released internationally. For whatever reason the American cut of the movie is a full 31 minutes shorter than the “International” version. The DVD release thankfully has both the 125 minute and 94 minute versions of the movie. I have only seen the full version of the movie. At some point in the future I might watch the shorter version out of morbid curiosity, similar to how I would love to see the 139 minute cut of Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, just to see how badly it has been butchered.
(Side note: I’m only familiar with the 229 minute and 251 minute versions of Once Upon a Time in America. As it is one of my favorite movies, I long for the day the 269 minute version gets some sort of release.)
I find it curious that a company that prides itself on presenting unconventional films from around the world would remove nearly 25% of a film’s running time. Furthermore, I would think that foreign language films are a niche market in the United States and the people that seek them out would be more than casual film viewers. Cutting the movie doesn’t seem to make sense to me. It seems that would alienate those that would be enthusiastic about the movie and I’m not sure decreasing the run time would attract those that wouldn’t already have an interest in the movie.
Anyway, Mood Indigo stars French actors Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou and is based on the 1947 Boris Vian novel L’Écume des jours (Froth on the Daydream). This is actually the third film adaptation of the novel. The previous versions are 1968’s Spray of the Days (also French) and a 2001 Japanese movie titled Chloe. Keen viewers may recognize actor Omar Sy. He is probably best known for The Intouchables or as one of the background mutants (Bishop) in X-Men: Days of Future Past. He’s the one with dreads, red eyes, and a large future-gun.
Much like my other favorite Gondry films (Eternal Sunshine… and The Science of Sleep), Mood Indigo is a romantic comedy (of sorts), with many fantastical elements. Colin (Romain Duris) is wealthy and seemingly happy with his life until the day his best friend Chick comes over and tells him that he has met a special woman. Colin decides that without a significant other his life is incomplete. Soon thereafter Colin meets Chloe (Audrey Tautou) and they quickly fall in love and wed. During their honeymoon, however, Chloe falls ill. From this point on the film is less bright and cheerful (literally). The color palette dampens gradually during the film, and by the end it is essentially in black and white.
The opening 10 minutes of the film are probably enough to determine if this is something you can tolerate. The absurdities last throughout, but the opening scenes heavily feature stop-motion animation and other surreal visuals. While I found this enjoyable (and it reminded me heavily of The Science of Sleep) I know others found it tiresome, irritating, overwhelming, too quirky, etc. Whatever may have been held back on The Green Hornet is on display here (and then some). The bare-bones description of the plot is pretty standard but Gondry is able to turn it in to something that is uniquely his own (even if it is an adaptation). I would favorably compare Mood Indigo to The Science of Sleep (obviously) and Synecdoche, New York.
Since the previous blog I have had the pleasure of viewing Life Itself, a Steve James documentary about Roger Ebert. I grew up watching Ebert on television and later began reading his reviews and commentary. As an adult, I think that he helped me appreciate film more, and I think he had interesting things to say about movies, even when I didn’t agree with him. Many times over the last couple of years after seeing a particularly good (or bad) movie, I wondered what Ebert would have written about it. Anyone with a passing interest in Roger Ebert should check out the Life Itself documentary.
One movie I would love to read Ebert’s take on: Ex Machina. I was able to catch it in theaters, and it’s easily the best movie of 2015 (as of the end of April). I’ve also had the pleasure of listening to John Carpenter’s debut album Lost Themes. While I’m not exactly a fan of his movies, Lost Themes is likely to be one of my favorite albums of 2015.
Up Next: I try to keep the word count under 1,000!
All of the following are available for checkout at the Daviess County Public Library:
Be Kind Rewind DVD
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind DVD
The Green Hornet DVD
The Intouchables DVD
Life Itself DVD
Lost Themes CD
Mood Indigo DVD
Once Upon a Time in America (229 minute version) DVD
The Science of Sleep DVD
Synecdoche, New York DVD
X-Men: Days of Future Past DVD