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'Mood Indigo' review: Setting a beautiful, creative tone

Colin (Romain Duris) proposes a kiss to Chloe

Colin (Romain Duris) proposes a kiss to Chloe (Audrey Tautou) in Drafthouse Films' Mood Indigo. Credit: Drafthouse Films

Just go with it. Michel Gondry's "Mood Indigo" is without doubt an overcooked soufflé, a mad mix of what Tex Avery, Rube Goldberg and the silent-film fantasist Georges Melies might have come up with if they'd put their feverish heads together. But even though it's visually hyperactive, clever to a fault and musically overloaded -- the title Duke Ellington number seems the only one missing -- this movie based on Boris Vian's one-of-a-kind 1947 novel "L'Écume des jours," still possesses a deliriously seductive sweetness cut by the cruelty of fate, and story line that Puccini might have set to music.

Actually, he sort of did, except for the miserable bohemian part. Wealth and happiness have found a comfortable home in the heart of Colin (Romain Duris), who has nothing to envy in his friends Chick (Gad Elmaleh) and Nicolas (Omar Sy) but their love lives: Chick has the gorgeous Alise (Aissa Maiga), Nicolas the beautiful Isis (Charlotte Le Bon). So they bring Colin to Chloe (Audrey Tautou) and perfection is achieved. Until Chloe grows a lily in her right lung.

Director Gondry is a genius of sorts; his music videos are sublime; both "Human Nature" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" were tours de force. His more recent output has not had the same impact as those films, but what he does in "Mood Indigo" is really unique, and probably as singular as Vian's book. The film could/should be taught in architecture and fashion schools: Its fantastical machinery -- a quadraphonic record player that plays four identical 45s; the typing pool where the typewriters move, via assembly line, past typists who each type a line; a plastic cloud attached to a crane, by which Colin and Chloe travel around Paris -- all seem the product of a world designed to be less efficient, but prettier. You might not want to live there, but it's a great place to visit.

PLOT Romance, tragedy and mechanistic wonders roll out in a surrealistic, steampunk-meets-CGI Paris.


CAST Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Omar Sy


BOTTOM LINE Lovely and wonderful, a kind of jazz-inflected "La Bohème." (In French with English subtitles)

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