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The Varieties of Experience: Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo

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By Paul Risker.

In my review of Alive Inside for Film International, the idea arose that the act of explaining one’s love of a piece of music undermines the intimate bond formed between person and art. Now whilst discussion may not undermine any intimate bond formed in this case between film and spectator, the experience offered should be savoured, and therein reviews of Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo are best experienced in retrospect rather than in anticipation of.

From a thought or opinion naturally derives a question, and the answer is because Mood Indigo is a film best entered into with an open mind. It offers the film a blank canvas upon which to paint its likeness, and touch your sensibilities in a way that is not dissimilar to how the palette of the artist fulfils the life design of the canvas.

MI 02Gondry, the enthusiastic child full of imagination and flare, distorts everything before our eyes. It is difficult to look past the fact that he perceives everything in the space as a toy for his creative vision, and he animates his world with colour and vibrancy that momentarily creates the illusion of the dream as something real.

But doubt overshadows much of the film as we wait to see whether the characters will be able to breathe in the humidity of the films ‘look’ or whether Gondry’s enthusiasm is conducive to a plot that offers his audience a rope to navigate their way through his hyper surreal world. In time any initial concerns are dismissed as Gondry convinces us that the visual aesthetic will not burn so bright as to quickly fade, only to leave us with soulless characters to hold our hands.

The harmony of the film hinges on its casting, and the cast of actors are made to measure for the characters they embody. As strongly as the visual world of Mood Indigo is announced, and remains a consistently loud presence, the characters are never dismissed as mere extensions or walking decoration, but remain an integral feature. The characters are the beating heart that keeps Gondry’s filmmaking aesthetics in check with Gondry the storyteller.

MI 03Gondry’s masterstroke is to de-clutter on the narrative side, abiding by Clive Barker’s adage that ‘Simplicity is genius’. Rather than trying to counter the look he instead creates a harmony through the simple tale of Colin (Romain Duris) and Chloé (Audrey Tautou) – the archetypal tragic tale of boy meets girl; boy falls in love with girl; boy marries girl; and in the story of this couple, girl falls ill.

Out of the shadow of hyper imagery and simplicity Gondry, by offsetting colour and monochrome, offers an evolving interplay that creates an intimate dance between the image, the characters and the theme of happiness versus suffering that could deem Mood Indigo Gondry’s ‘A Theme on Jung’.

But Mood Indigo offers a meditation on the question of the source of creativity, and more importantly, individual creativity. With every story having been exhausted, film, literature, theatre and even music continues to thrive. One answer as to why may be that we enjoy the familiarity of the narrative experience, but equally the answer may lie in the responsibility of the individual artist.

MI 04The narrative Gondry has chosen is an exhausted one, and yet in watching Mood Indigo it becomes clear that his individual presence infuses it with life to craft one of the defining filmic experiences of the year. Therein Mood Indigo is a testament to the importance of the individual’s perspective, who as a translator of ideas allows them the opportunity to filter it through their imagination and personal life experiences to craft something unique and personal to them that can then touch the sensibilities of an audience.

But Gondry’s distortion of reality touches upon the metaphysical. Within the reality we all collectively share there is the individual’s perspective of that said reality. But for Michel Gondry the storyteller and filmmaker this breaks down further still that can be likened to a set of Russian Nesting Dolls, where each film represents a new world. His cinematic worlds multiply with each film, and break down further still to individually to carve out new worlds within their own world. On reflection of Mood Indigo the greatest gift the creative process offers us is the ability to multiply our perception of reality, a gift of our imagination, for which film has offered Gondry a means to record the multiple worlds, and therein create his own version of Russian Nesting Dolls cinematically.

Paul Risker is a critic and writer for a number of on-line and print publications, including Little White Lies, Flickering Myth, Starburst Magazine, and VideoScope. He is currently based in the United Kingdom.

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