Fresh from its appearance at the NZ International Film Festival, Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo has returned to cinemas for an art house run. Almost.
Since the festival, the powers that be have edited more than 30 minutes out of Mood Indigo for wide release, and while I didn’t see the longer cut, the film appears to suffer, particularly in the third act, from its studio-imposed brevity.
Beginning as a simple love story between Colin (Romain Duris) and Chloe (Audrey Tatou), the film features Gondry’s signature hand-crafted style, using stop-motion and in camera trickery to craft a charming, whimsical, and very French world. Early on, Mood Indigo’s more upbeat tone is like a Looney Tunes cartoon come to life, and the attention to detail is wonderfully enchanting.
Sadly, as the story begins to take a more sombre turn at around the halfway point, what remains of the visual trickery and some of the sillier elements of the world begin to wear a little. As Gondry continues into downright depressing territory, it becomes clear that all of the earlier gimmickry is masking a pretty thin story, and while it’s fun to look at, the visual style fails to add any real substance.
By all accounts the longer festival cut was a fully involving and moving fantasy romance, but what we are now offered is a film that tumbles toward its conclusion without giving the audience enough time to process it. Whether or not a future DVD release will make Gondry’s original vision available remains to be seen, but there’s just enough here to make me think a longer version would be worthwhile.
As it is, Mood Indigo is a unique but unsatisfying experience, possibly a sad casualty of studio meddling.