It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Even if you have a high tolerance for whimsy, "Mood Indigo" may still be too much.
This story of the love between Colin (Romain Duris) and Chloé (Audrey Tautou) is one-stop-shopping for the types of visual and emotional effects that the director's fans might call Gondryisms. As in "Mind" and "Human Nature" and "The We and the I," the filmmaker creates surreal or flat-out fantastic images, but with old-fashioned special effects: stop-motion, miniatures that are obviously miniatures, people in animal costumes a step up from what you'd see at a masquerade ball, highly symbolic tableaus built and lit and blocked like stage sets, and so forth. Then he photographs it all in ways that tell your brain, "This is a thing that happened in front of this camera, and we just happened to catch it." That creates a cognitive dissonance that's often lovely, and dreamlike in its matter-of-factness.
The problem is that the images are yoked to a story that seems to have been meant as cutting satire—on what, though? Maybe it's a comment on the disconnect between the upper classes and everybody else, though from what's onscreen it's hard to tell. The movie can't or won't reconcile the critical aspects of the story (whatever they may be) with the filmmaker's desire to delight us. The result is a film that seems to be subtly insisting that everything is not fine, even as the director's tone is saying, "It's all sunshine and lollipops, folks; love is grand, life is but a dream—and look, here's another visual miracle!"
The movie is adapted from the 1946 novel "Lecume des Jours" ("The Froth of Days") by Boris Vian, a source that has been described as a class-consciousness parable about rich people living in a Garden of Eden built from their money and then gradually being forced out of it. Colin and his best friend Chick (Gad Emaleh), Chick's loyal girlfriend Alise (Aissa Maiga), Colin's great love Chloé and all of their pals exist in a universe that seems to have the same internal logic as a Max Fleischer cartoon made in about 1938 or so: think Betty Boop or Popeye. People's legs and torsos flex and twist like bendable action figures or pieces of chewing gum stretched out; these effects are done, it appears, with dummies on strings. This world is studded with marginal surreal touches that are never heralded or explained. Rube Goldberg contraptions are everywhere. Colin has invented a device that produces cocktails based on musical compositions. An announcer at an ice rink is a stiff-looking human-sized bird, like a huge version of what you'd see popping out of a cuckoo clock. The mouse who lives in Colin's apartment is a guy in a mouse suit scampering across windowsill and baseboard sets. When the mouse needs to make good time he'll hop in a tiny car and floor it.