Cinema Movie Review: L’écume des jours (Mood Indigo) (2013)

Mood-IndigoleadIn the mood for Gondry

Compulsory reading for any French teenager, Boris Vian’s 1947 novel Froth on the Daydream, from which L’écume des jours (Mood Indigo) (2013) is adapted, is one of those texts that one probably finds out too young and too quickly to enjoy it at its best, or to appreciate its various flavours. Michel Gondry‘s adaptation gives us a chance of re-reading it in a interesting way, as while he somehow betrays the novel and turns it into a Gondry film, he probably delivers the best interpretation possible.

Colin (Romain Duris) is a young man who does not need to work to make a living. He lives in a phantasmagorical post-war Paris, surrounded by his two friends, Nicolas (Omar Sy), his cook, and Chick (Gad Elmaleh), his obsessed-with-‘Jean-Sol Partre’ friend. He spends most of his time listening to jazz, and making up dream machines such as the ‘pianocktail’ – how could Gondry not fall in love with this invention? When Colin meets the delicate Chloé (Audrey Tautou), it is love at first sight and their marriage is full of happiness until Chloé suffers from a strange disease. She has a water lily growing in her lung and, even though she tries to deny it, breathing becomes more and more difficult for her. All of a sudden, Colin and Chloé’s life is totally transformed. Colin even has to work in order to pay for Chloé’s treatment and their own appartment begins to shrink, to become darker and darker, as spiders’ webs grow all over the place.

The most accomplished scenes of the film involve Gondry’s visual revelations, especially those that remix the chronological references. Nicolas, for example, looks up in his agenda on a sort of black and white Rubik’s Cube, as if the 1940s, the 80s and the 2010s meet through this kind of low-tech smart phone. The ancestor of a search engine is materialized by people launching requests and treating them manually like old phone operators would have done. In other words, the theory of Colin’s neighbor, an old woman who says that the walls getting closer to each other evoke the feeling of shrinking space that comes with age, is proved wrong when it comes to Gondry’s imagination, which expands with time. And in Mood Indigo, his jubilation is clearly noticeable.

If the second part of the film flounders in some lenghty parts, one can also blame Gondry’s fidelity to Vian’s novel, in which the characters are somehow unreal, as there is no point in describing precisely their psychology. Therefore, one does not feel very moved by Chloé’s state of health worsening. But Gondry also partly eludes this pitfall, thanks to perfect casting (Omar Sy, Alain Chabat), even including the extras.

In the end, one has perhaps not been amazed and delighted by such a visual inventiveness since Delicatessen (1991), but at the same time, Gondry sometimes gives the impression to be overwhelmed by the machinery he has given birth to, as if, at some point, the creator lost control of its creature. In Be Kind Rewind (2008), one of Gondry’s most affecting films, two video-club employees decide to save hundreds of films from the oblivion by ‘sueding’ them, that is reshooting them with what is at hand. It is this ‘sueded’ tone that somehow misses in Mood Indigo, although the film remains very pleasant and sometimes even really stimulating.

125 mins. In French.

8 thoughts on “Cinema Movie Review: L’écume des jours (Mood Indigo) (2013)”

  1. For those who are interested, one can now read the TamTam Books edition Foam of the Daze (L’ecume des jours) which has end-notes and is translated by Brian Harper. It’s a classic book and I am extremely happy to be the publisher – one can get a copy at your favorite bookstore, as well as on your favorite online shops.

  2. Hi Tosh, thanks for your comment (plug ;-)), and welcome to Picturenose! We will allow this one to pass, but would appreciate it if you could restrict any further thoughts you have to thoughts on our reviews, deal? 😉 All the best, thanks again.

  3. Oh, I’m sorry! With respect to the film, does it have an American release date? I had no contact whatsoever from the producers nor the director – which is OK, because they’re adopting it from the original French edition of the novel. The stills I have seen look great – I have high hopes for the film.

    Also there was another version made in 1968. I have a copy of that, and it’s fascinating – but not a great film, in my opinion.

  4. Hi again Tosh,

    No apology necessary, was just joshing with you. 🙂 According to IMDB, no US release date given as yet, will probably go straight to DVD over there. Many thanks for the interesting background on the film.

  5. Great review, thanks. I have been looking for reviews in English as I have recently read the book (coincidentally, the one published by Tam Tam) and have high hopes for the film. Hopefully it will get a theatrical release here in the UK as well. Surely Tautou, Gondry and Duris are big enough names to warrant that?

  6. Hey Bewildebeast,

    Many thanks for your comment, glad you liked the review and yes, by the sound, this is definitely a film that deserves a UK release. Do keep us posted on its progress, won’t you?

    Welcome to Picturenose, thanks again. 🙂

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