Mood Indigo : A Film Review

20140723-150334-54214920.jpg A romantic fantasy.

Directed by Michel Gondry based on the book

Froth on the daydream by Boris Vian. French. 2013. Cert. 12am. 1hr 34mins. This version is the reduced one. Less 30mins. It seems audiences were considered in some locations to have insufficient capacity for a possibly more extended film.

Cast. Romain Duris, Audrey Tatou, Gad Elmaleh, Charlotte de Bon, Michel Gondry. also Aissa Maiga as Alise, Sacha Bourdo as La sour is, Natacha Regneir as La marchande de remedies, Philippe Torrenton as. Jean-Sol Parte, Alain Chabret as Gouffe.

French avant-garde surrealism internalised.

Obvious Deception

When I see an image I believe in it or reject it. The above image I saw fully equipped as a part of a narrative we know nothing of. We do not know the associated story if there is one. I remade, copied it and made it less dark than the original Yet it remains placed in the kind of time frame, era, as Mood Indigo I think. I read the light flickering as moonlight and the woman deep in solitary reflection. The Incline of the steps seems to be a natural balancing place when we should be expecting her sitting on a level surface. This I believe is what subverts the consciousness with us believing in the story from the start BUT on closer inspection something odd and still more unelained is in front of our eyes but we cannot see it for looking. The artist may know.

Enclosed Mind So is this film undirecting us to the internal story? Eternal ….spotless mind… Sleeping are the directors comfort zone and this peculiar auteur omnibus is nothing more than a book rendered into drawn images, sketches of the expectation of the written word. Then the special effects are to be expected. Executed. Animated. Some of the sketches may have made it to the screen. Is there another way of presenting this love story that would rely less on trickery and be through time shift, location being totally surreal and more like the Parisian emigre Beckett an approach? How was the Japanese version (Kuroe 2001) approached, I haven’t seen it or read about it?

Nature marvels before us.

The auteur is of course the writer and his developed story is of the limits of pleasure in the most sublime of circumstances and the narrative literally unravels into small elements. No control of the natural world is possible. It is as Jean Rhys observation in Wide Sargasso Sea on the part of the pubescent Antoinette – of all things natural being better and at a level above us.

She opens her thinking on Jamaica –

“And if the razor grass cut my legs and arms I would think ‘Its better than people.’ Black ants or red ones, tall nests swarming with white ants, rain that soaked me to the skin – once I saw a snake. All better than people. Better. Better, better than people.”

That in 1966. On pre-war colonialists. Boris Vian has imaginably, consciously as other artists did, must have formed art by re-telling our ancient placation with animals when they were given as the bible once proposed joint dominion or was that Jesus and the bible elevated us. It would not surprise me if that is part of the logic, if is can be so called, that is driving the book, therefore the film; the imagined takeover of the superior forms organic and innate Garden of Eden universally prodded, cajoled and capitulated too, there is fundamental sadness in the foibles of humanity as the film iterates.

Pacifism Left Bank

The plainer style of filmmaker has no mainframe reference of philosophy or even more the intensity of daydreams or preternatural functions of he human being. To a writer whose output is not confined to the literature of his own kind Boris Vian is a satrap of the College of Pataphysics – (a version of imagination indulged as counter psychology to the philosophy of the cuckoldry of JPS who is the target in the film of arch mockery) – in which the imagination is King. It is enchant savage on the Rive Gauche. Whether he was a subordinal of any kind when he died aged only 39 he was never aware of it. More evidently he would appear to attend to the modifications he sought to make WITHIN the SYSTEM. The songs he wrote chiefly Le deserteur lamented on the hypocrisy and futility of war and he cleaned up the world musically by endorsing jazz and co-producing concert performances of Duke Ellington – enter Mood Indigo – and the impossible to define preternatural talent Miles Davis.

When I saw Mlles Davis play in London he was at the tightest of tight in playing sublime occasion filled music and it was very possibly fueled by a little cocaine. Of the trumpet and the cocaine both required the lips to be licked incessantly to obtain the note sought inside or out, we were none the wiser! A Mrs Davis appears as well as the good director himself as a quack Doctor when a malady strikes and Nicholas who is connected everywhere recommends him. Still the same breakdown of instinct to a level obtained no where else was the kind of thing Boris Vian would have experienced by his extraordinary reach and it informed his writing as others informed their art. That Paris era was drenched in a polyphonic saturation of ideas we now incorporate at leisure and unwittingly into our own life’s as a cultural narrative.


The animation of this film together with its digital effects are very drawn from Alice in Wonderland as are the nuances of the sexual liberty found on an edge of fantasy and the reaction the author draws from his own disaffection given the interpretation of JPS. It is beseeching a mortality on one railtrack or another. Boris Vian has deep condolences for his own musings of his soul. Where is it and it is in that branch of Pataphysics he became in thrall to? Morality has its kingdom and this breathing living love story is the quintessence of faultless love. In other words it is as a Grimms fairy tale amidst the horrors of reality

Grimm never saw television, nor saw a picture except the Dantesque paintings and mind altering folklore told in a canon of religiosity. Never content with simple things Vian paid homage to his surrealist imagination in ways he could not indulge visually which is where the filmmakers he worked with up to his untimely death never reached the vision as he saw it. When the animation is less dominant when the love story enters its sense of wonder the film gives us some respite from the over vexed visual orgy of indulgence that is delivered by a vast team and not the bricolage handle given. Thankfully this saves the treatment of the book. It is not to be savaged to morte after all.

Film Bricolage

This film is misunderstood firstly as a book of 1949 that has become cult reading.

Therefore film directors, Michael Gondry – has been described as a bricolage director – have a hill and trough to transcend into a pictorial spree. It is distinctly misleading to term a director as bricolage unless they pear isolated as a few who do their own thing. Bricolage – DIY or DYOT. Each Director needs to do his own thing in order to deliver the film. He has not written the story The plot is entirely transposed and the draft of visual effects are, and this is where realisation might provide invention, the outcome is a brocade of embroidered surface. Very little depth develops and as a love story it is carried by the narrative which only just shows, is revealed awkwardly and incoherently as a montage of colour washing out of the lives encountered as it becomes that much darker as it progresses from its lighthearted opening scenes.

Actors Sublime

In this we have a rich man servant, the same modality in a new century of master servant with Colin, Roman Duris aided by the brilliance of his entrusted, Duke Ellington lookalike, Omar Sy. Is it racism abhorred? The friend Colin takes his cue from is Chick, Gad Elmaleh. Colin is very rich and as well as being handsome – Boris Vian was himself a very attractive Parisian appearing as the Cardinal in ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ so he couldn’t be more defining of the dominion in a ‘Godlike’ role! He seemed unconscious of this through neglect of himself and became so fraught with intellectual burden and drive he summoned his death it would appear. The love appears on Colin’s list of needs; it became so when Chick found himself a girlfriend, in the coquettish subtle beauty of Chloe, Audrey Tatou. How do you do AT justice as her acting is delicious and a convincing panoply of emotion almost always. The meeting part is delivered well, withstanding the super animation found necessary by the director and entourage.

It has in it the introduction of a party host whose art of being a gem amongst pebbles Isis, Charlotte de Bon is bristling with witty entertaining playful hospitality. In a further later part she morphs into another this time an intelligent purveyor of Colin’s floral needs. The love becomes as full and promising as ever can be imagined. Then tragedy appears. The world or the Gods have played a cruel trick on Chloe to the most unfathomable depths of humanities conction. The unexplained phenomonen takes their future lives on an inconceivable journey as a counter to the love and adoration of each other. It is so well configured as a proposition – the novel clearly pushes the reader into new realms of understanding themselves and humanity – it requires any filmmaker to take that journey forward not only by rapier emotional depiction of the splendid cast but less for want of a better word gratuitous indulgence in mimicry with objects and the domestic life. Normal is not the default state and it is a reliance on creating a vision of normality and then subverting it where Michael Gondry lacks vision or creative license. The only blessing is his budget might have drawn in his unconscious behaviour after the indulgent overplaying of extravagance, in an overcooked first part. Creative propping, set building displays of collected montages of tried and tested decadence, photographic ‘pleuritic’ disgorgement, taxidermy and sensual stock period truth is one thing but as other it fails to convince as. I return to the requirement for you to suspend any annoyance with trickery and obvious CGI and relate to the proximity of the other in your own minds eye. Get a Chemical reaction? I hope so. Films not only pour visuals into the visual cortex indeed, they stimulate the nerve ends of memory and perceptions of accumulated thought the person who is you relies on.

image The film takes us around memorable parts of Paris and the Saint Germaine and bohemian lanes. There are more trees than ever in the beautifully planted central Paris and surrounding adroissments. Part of the over cultivation of nature having taken over as the love story extends. We see the machines of offices where life goes to waste and a compositors inter web thing as a unfunny long joke. We see cretins on the wood pile. Through a fence amusingly we see the new roots of Paris at the awful but now demolished Le Halle. The hyped lift up to the sky takes in Notre Dame and continues wearisomely as another piece of bonding. The authors take? Few methods of digital merriment are overlooked while the mouse in miniature within Colin’s household keeps a mousicum of order while scuttling hither and tither on across the Rue Balzac or wherever in the train like 4th floor compartment. Upper deck is poop deck for sleeping and it is amorphously engaging after most trickery subsides.


Conclusion ###3 had it the extra 1/2hr who knows? Not this time around. Mood Indigo is not inaccessible. It requires something of a visual submersion, maybe less immersion in the constant over developed imagery and reliance on your own approximations of the unseen but underlying concepts and human patterns of behaviour. It asks how we savour life and extend ourselves a carefree indulgent indifference to our outside with the consequences always coming back and with the inevitably destructive revisiting of our expectations fantasied. By seeing it in the Cinema, even given the dimensions of Widescreen HDTV it will be more than worth taking the trip to see it at a Cinema. Primarily you may delight in the visuals in the beginning and throughout.

The book is apparently one for adolescents which also has not come across as it is a French passage of life book savoured and imagined in a myriad of ways. The Froth of the Daydream takes us into our subconscious. Last night I had a dream, a small element in glorious technicolor and correct elaborate detail, of which a trip involving touching down in a 747 cargo plane which was piloted by Mick Jagger and he and I were the only human passengers on board. Instead of the usual calling with Airport Security etc, not that we were hiding anything, he decided to drive home in the plane which was to Farnham. As we got near Farnham corridor of Hedges loomed in over the narrow road and Mick steered a down the middle with the wings cutting evenly and as a municipal hedge cutter would trimming the hedge. A lorry with a huge painting roped to the trailer behind stopped at the opposite end where we were headed. Mick said ” Thank Christ for that” and on we went.

Several other totally different scenes we dreamed continuing the story. Everyone has bizarre dreams and hopefully they are as vivid and as up disturbing as can be. The Froth is sometimes in the daydream but even stranger things are imagined and appear in separation from everyone else. By show don’t tell rules this Film is explicitly harbouring on the margins of that idiom. Where is the don’t tell? It may not make you one with nature and may have a lasting divergent affect on any horticultural ambitions you may hold.

Provocatively we are given sumptuous interiors, they also become smaller.  The Hausmann ideal Paris and the boulevard acquaintance with the order that town planning brought an already astere correctness with a modicum of socialist racism intensely disliked by the likes of Francois Mauriac (Therese). Read Memoires Interieurs if you haven’t for a sublime insight to the French and this mans self deprecating non autobiographical account of his genus loci. To think my French teacher put me off French by his airs and failures of communication in his native language.


John Graham

23 July 2014


QFT beginning in August.

Check new programme – issued last week in July for times and dates.

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