Mood Indigo

Bruce Springsteen has enough classic albums that a debate about what his best record is could go on for a very long time. But for me the two logical places to start are his most popular (Born In the U.S.A) and his most critically acclaimed (probably Born to Run.) They both sound like Bruce, they have the same themes, and they even share similar titles, but U.S.A. is much poppier, with synthesizers laid on top of what are basically classic rock songs and the brooding lyrics pushed back behind the more upbeat music. Non-Bruce fans probably like the U.S.A. songs they've heard on the radio, but Bruce true believers love Run a lot more. On some level, the comparison comes down to: are you a "passive" fan or a "true" fan?

A similar question could be posed about director Michel Gondry's most popular film (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and his most recent film (Mood Indigo.) Both films have some of Gondry's signatures - hand made props, lots of dream logic, and a tone that mixes whimsy and melancholy. But Charlie Kaufman co-wrote Eternal Sunshine with Gondry, and the movie they produced is a blending of their sensibilities. That movie makes a clear delineation between the real world and the world that exists inside Jim Carrey's mind, with the real world stuff being fairly grounded and all of the fantastic elements only occurring in Carrey's subconscious.

 

In contrast, Mood Indigo feels like one of Gondry's music videos stretched to two hours. The hand made props are ever present: when we first meet Colin, the male half of this love story, we see that his apartment is full of impossible gadgets like the pianocktail, the piano that makes different mixed drinks based on the music you play on it. Colin meets Chloe at a dinner party where they do a dance that requires you to stretch your legs till they look like pool noodles. Eventually Colin marries Chloe, but she gets sick on their honeymoon when a water lily seed floats into her lung and starts growing. Naturally, when she gets an x-ray we see that the flower's petals are made of yarn.

I appreciated Mood Indigo for it's relentlessly Gondry-ness. There's so much love and attention in every scene of this movie - it seems like almost none of the props were simply bought at the store, because everything from Colin's dinner table to his door frame verge on the preposterous. It's the sort of movie where they can't just go to a regular church - they have to go to the church of Jetsus, who is an airplane with stigmata on his wings. However, that inescapable dreaminess means that not everyone is going to be able to tolerate this movie. If you aren't into the idea of driving a cloud across town, then you might look at their choice of car and go "Jesus, why can't they just drive a Volkswagen?"

The reason why the Born in the U.S.A. / Born to Run comparison makes for a fitting parallel for the Eternal Sunshine / Mood Indigo juxtaposition is because they are all works of singular talents, but Born to Run and Mood Indigo are much more idiosyncratic to the talent that made them.  Born in The U.S.A. is Bruce filtered through what was popular in the mid-80s; in contrast, Born to Run takes Springsteen's penchant for bombast and turns it all the way up, with album closer Jungleland being stretched to 9 plus minutes - which is either epic or insufferable, depending on your tolerance for that sort of thing. Similarly, Eternal Sunshine has it's fantastic elements, but it does ultimately feel like a Hollywood movie, albeit a very smart one, while Mood Indigo takes Gondry's penchant for putting images before story and doubles down on it - which is either going to create a unique movie, or an aimless one, depending on  your level of interest in the absurd.

Personally, I loved Mood Indigo. But do I love it more than Eternal Sunshine, which is an easier movie to love? Maybe? Probably not? It would probably depend on my mood, honestly. But then again, I also can't pick a favorite Springsteen album. Such are the eternal debates of fandom, I suppose.

Winner: Me

Mood Indigo on IMDB