After a number of disappointing films, Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo signals the French auteur’s return to the repertoire of cinematic tricks that once made him the contemporary director you had to know.

An adaptation of Boris Vian’s cult novel Froth On The Daydream, the film tells the story of Colin (Romain Duris) who falls in love with the pixie-like Chloe (Audrey Tautou). Set in a Paris amidst a bohemian fantasia, we skitter along with Colin and Chloe on their idyllic flights of fancy through Parisian jazz clubs, Jean-Sol Partre-inspired protests and the French countryside with breezy Gallic repartee very much included.

In true Gondry style, Mood Indigo’s milieu is full of delightful gadgets, such as Colin’s self-invented pianocktail – a hybrid piano and cocktail drink maker which concocts beverages based on what notes or chords are being played.

However, staying true to the novel, the dream of conjugal bliss is shattered by tragedy when a water lily starts growing in one of Chloe’s lungs.

Forced to spend all his money to find a cure, Colin spirals into a lumbering, tragic dirge. Replacing the freewheeling reverie with the growing helplessness of Colin and Chloe’s melancholia, Gondry’s incapacity to capture more dramatic and mature themes is exposed.

That’s not to dissuade from the moments of true visual enchantment. Since Chloe’s condition requires her to lie in a bed of flowers like a Gothic Ophelia, Gondry provides some stunning visual interplay between her floral deathbed and Colin’s increasingly deteriorating home. And yet, despite the dazzling array of stop-motion animation, digitised special effects and camerawork, Gondry fails to strike an emotional chord.

Though the latter stages of Mood Indigo may frustrate some, the film’s inventive cinematography and manic mise-en-scène will delight Gondry fans and those willing to lose themselves in an eye-pleasing daydream.

3/5 stars

BY LARRY LAI

Mood Indigo hits cinemas on Thursday September 12.

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