Michael C. here back with the return of Burning Questions, the weekly column where I answer all the most pressing film issues of the day, and, more importantly, address whatever is rattling through my head at any given moment. It’s a pretty sweet gig. First up is a growing concern I've been nursing for one of our best filmmakers.
If I hadn’t known the Mood Indigo trailer was for the new Michel Gondry film I might have wondered if it was an incredibly skillful satire. Like those spoofs that show films directed in the deadpan style of Wes Anderson it plays like an exaggerated showcase of all the director’s idiosyncrasies. The tone of melancholic whimsy. The frequent detours into magic realism. The loving devotion to the handmade over the slick and polished. The presence of Audrey Tatou in particular seems specifically engineered to provoke a chorus of cooler-than-thou Internet smart-asses to point fingers and shout “Twee!” “Twee!”
I hold Gondry in high esteem and unashamedly enjoy all the quirks listed above, but at some point you have to ask: Is Gondry ever going to come back down to Earth? Currently Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind sits in the middle of Gondry’s filmography as a glorious anomaly... [more]
...A miraculous fluke where one of the all-time great screenplays found its way into the hands of a director perfectly suited to bring its fantastic conceit to life without losing track of the sad, wise love story at its core. Gondry’s subsequent films have had the same wealth of imagination, but lacking the strong spine of Kaufman’s text, it all tends to float off into the ether. I fondly recall Science of Sleep’s “one second time machine” and Be Kind Rewind’s no-budget movie recreations but they exists in my memory as stand-alone curios, independent of their films. (I will politely ignore Green Hornet. Even the greatest of filmmakers land a full-on bellyflop now and then.)
The fact that Mood Indigo is based on a French novel by Boris Vian inspires optimism that Gondry has once again married his world-class imagination to a structure strong enough to support it. The fact that the novel’s plot is summarized as “A man marries a woman who must be constantly surrounded by flowers to survive” makes me worry that the material was chosen for its handiness as a clothesline for the director’s trademark flights of fancy.
yes no maybe so?
I understand that you can spend years waiting for a script like Eternal Sunshine to land in your lap. And it's not that I don't enjoy visiting the director's dream world - Indigo's underwater wedding looks worth the price of admission alone. It’s simply that Gondry has shown that he’s at his best when applying his brilliance to a story grounded in stark, down-to-Earth reality underneath all the stardust. It would be a shame if he never approached that greatness again because he was floating too high above it all.