Mood Indigo or, L’ecume de jours, to use its original title, is a French film written by Michel Gondry and Luc Bossi, adapted from the 1947 Novel by Boris Vian. Gondry, who is the director behind Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind, also directed this film.
On the surface this is a quirky, romantic, slightly comic film created with ingenious inventiveness and unusual story twists. The characters are unique and selfish, at times infuriating, but still strangely loveable. Mostly for their vulnerability. The film begins by introducing us to Colin, an independently wealthy bachelor who seems to spend most of his time with friend and intellectual peer Chick. And Nicolas, who Colin describes as his Lawyer, but whom seems to spend most of his time cooking and serving Colin. Chick has recently begun a relationship with Nicolas’ cousin, and so between the two men they rally to find Colin a partner and arrange for him to meet Chloe at a party, awkward romance ensues.
As the film progresses and one begins to question and look closer, there are echos of surrealism and existentialism in this absurd world. Which isn’t surprising, given the original work the film is based on. Vian was friends with Jean-Paul Satre, and one can not ignore the familiarity in the name Jean-Sol Patre. The fictional philosopher Colin and, in particular, Chick passionately follow.
Some things are up to date, such as the work currently going on to update Les Forum des Halles. At other times the stench of 1920’s surrealist culture is overwhelming, from the pink cloud Colin and Chloe ride on their first date. To the animated food cooked up by Nicolas with guidance from a personal celebrity chef who can communicate through the TV.
This is a modern world as imagined by the likes of George Orwell, with the internet operated by women in a room looking through directories. And a living doorbell that scuttles around the flat ringing, to get the attention of the inhabitants.
There is a subtle back drop of war and violence, that we glimpse towards the end of the film. It feels as though our central characters are protected by Colin’s dwindling wealth and their philosophical ideals. But the world outside is a broken one, represented by the earthquake which send a fracture through an ice skating rink, and ultimately they are not immune to the evils of the world, demonstrated by Chloe’s contraction of an illness caused by inhaling a water-lily, which settles and begins to grow on her lung.
As Chloe gets more sick other parts of the world begin to close in, and become darker and less colourful. Colin is no longer clean-shaven, and his crisp suits are replaced by a grubby workers uniform.
After walking out of the cinema, I felt as though I had stumbled upon someone else’s day-dream, something that made some sort of sense to someone. But the optimism from the start of the film lived on, and left me also with a sense of elation and romance. Endless possibilities of grabbing life by the floating pink cloud.
I am not going to make a guess at what Gondry was trying to ‘say’ with this film. Instead I will praise the production of an adaptation of the 1947 text in to a singular visual spectacle. There is a lot to be found within, if sought.
I had the pleasure of seeing this film in The Little Cinema, a Picture House cinema in Bath.