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Daily | Michel Gondry’s MOOD INDIGO

“The experience is rather like watching a very long, very expensive episode of PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE that’s been co-directed by Terry Gilliam and Salvador Dali.” Updated through 4/29.

Mood Indigo

Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris in ‘Mood Indigo’

It opens in France today, and the papers there are all over it—see, for example, Didier Péron in Libération or Thomas Sotinel in Le Monde—but the first reviews in English come from the trades.

“After an opera adaptation and earlier cinematic efforts by Go Riju and Charles Belmont, Boris Vian’s supposedly unfilmable cult novel Froth on a Daydream has been adapted to the big screen as Michel Gondry’s often inventive but finally exhausting Mood Indigo,” begins Boyd van Hoeij in Variety. “Finally back on Gallic home turf after The Green Hornet and The We and the I, Gondry would seem the perfect filmmaker to adapt Vian’s work and bring to life such flights of fancy as the pianocktail, a cocktail machine that translates any musical piece into a colorful concoction. But herein lies exactly the problem: As directed by Gondry from a screenplay he wrote with producer Luc Bossi, the film frequently privileges art direction over emotion, and a constant sense of wonder based on visuals alone proves impossible to sustain over the lengthy 130-minute runtime.”

“The experience is rather like watching a very long, very expensive (the film was budgeted at €18M, or $23M) episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse that’s been co-directed by Terry Gilliam and Salvador Dali,” suggests Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter. “Granted, transforming Vian’s experimental 1947 book into a comprehensible narrative is a little like trying to turn William S. Burroughs’s The Soft Machine into a sci-fi blockbuster, or Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow into an HBO miniseries…. Once you manage to put aside all the clutter and noise—which is by no means an easy task—Mood Indigo actually tells a fairly classic boy-meets-girl sob story, where a kindhearted dreamer named Colin (Romain Duris) crosses paths with a pretty, quick-witted gal named Chloe (Audrey Tautou), and, after much wooing, manages to win her over.”

New trailer with English subtitles

“The underlying template is as basic as can be,” concurs Lisa Nesselson, writing for Screen. “Boy meets girl. They court with glee and marry. They’re deleriously happy. She develops an impediment to her health, which worsens. It’s Love Story—although this version came first.” And yet, it’s all “so relentlessly creative that viewers may actually feel they’re getting too much for their money. Romain Duris! Audrey Tautou! Omar Sy! Jazz! Paris!”

Update, 4/29: “The post-war Rive Gauche cult figure par excellence, Vian had a finger in so many pies the word polymath seems barely adequate.” The Telegraph‘s Anne Billson sketches out a biography of the author who died at 39, “10 minutes into the screening of a film adapted from his hardboiled novel J’irai cracher sur vos tombes.” As for the film: “Critics have complained of what they see as a lack of emotional involvement with superficial characters, apparently failing to realize it’s the film itself delivering the emotional wallop. Mood Indigo is a rom-com haunted by death.”

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