Flower power

Michel Gondry and Audrey Tautou contemplate the strangeness of Mood Indigo.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Mood Indigo's Audrey Tautou with Michel Gondry at the Tribeca Grand Hotel premiere:
Mood Indigo's Audrey Tautou with Michel Gondry at the Tribeca Grand Hotel premiere: "I like the bell. The doorbell that is like an insect." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Michel Gondry had a Tin Drum moment on the red carpet for his Mood Indigo*, starring Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris with Gad Elmaleh, Omar Sy, Aïssa Maïga and Charlotte Le Bon. Boris Vian transformed into Günter Grass with a Volker Schlöndorff image stuck in and out of Gondry's head ending up in Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? An Animated Conversation With Noam Chomsky and out of a faucet in Mood Indigo. Tautou and Duris walked the red carpet in 2013 at The Paris Theatre - she for Claude Miller's Thérèse Desqueyroux and he for Régis Roinsard's Populaire.

Audrey Tautou at Mood Indigo New York premiere:
Audrey Tautou at Mood Indigo New York premiere: "I was really intrigued by the imagination and phantasy of this universe." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

David Byrne, a Gondry pal, attended the screening at the Tribeca Grand Hotel along with Julie Taymor, Mia Moretti, Dana Delany, Jess Weixler, Arden Wohl, Carly Chaiken, Peter Cincotti, Haley Gates, Max Lugavere, Olivia Chantecaille, Leandra Medine, Tarajia Morell, Max Osterweis, Kate Foley and Oliver Clegg.

Gondry takes on the challenge of Vian's cult novel that generations of French teenagers fall in love with as a rite of passage. "I read it at age 16 and so did my son," Gondry told me at the after party with his son by his side. Tautou has a similar recollection.

Mood Indigo fashions an unconventional universe as the backdrop for the love story between Colin (Duris) and Chloé (Tautou). He lives in a railway car, suspended between two buildings like a bridge and packed with home-made, hand-made technology. A piano mixes cocktails, the doorbell moves like a bug that morphs into many smaller bugs when hit, human legs lengthen for a dance, food is generally on the go and made out of cloth.

At first, life for the couple is one big happy adventure. With their group of friends they go ice skating at the Molitor rink (the location that gave Pi his name in Ang Lee's Life of Pi), fly above Paris in a cloud that is part Jetsons, part carnival ride, and discuss with pal Chick (Elmaleh) his obsession with the works of philosopher Jean-Sol Partre.

Everything unravels when on their honeymoon a snowflake enters Chloé's body and turns into a water lily that grows in her lung. Her inner organs look like something knitted by Rodarte. To save her, Colin has to finance an exorbitant amount of flowers to surround her and scare off the deadly plant in her body. The joyous, almost hysterical mood of the film's beginning turns into a deadly serious plea for creativity.

David Byrne is all smiles in support of Michel Gondry's Mood Indigo
David Byrne is all smiles in support of Michel Gondry's Mood Indigo Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

This is Gondry at his best. Colin, who never had to work before, now has to take on the worst possible jobs. In a murky greenhouse, lying naked on a Beckett-inspired pile of earth, he provides body warmth to grow rubbery machine guns out of metal acorns or goes door to door to inform people about the bad news of tomorrow. The world of our imagination is all we have to counter the horrors of this world.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Do you have a special love for eels?

Michel Gondry: Eels, the animals? Because of my movie with Chomsky?

AKT: Yes and in this one as well. The eels are coming out of the faucet?

MG: Oh. No, I think it's gross. You remember Tin Drum? The movie?

AKT: Of course, in the horse's head washed up on the beach.

MG: That's so horrible. I think it's revolting.

Dana Delany on the Mood Indigo red carpet at the Tribeca Grand Hotel
Dana Delany on the Mood Indigo red carpet at the Tribeca Grand Hotel Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: You are not putting eels in every film of yours now?

MG: Maybe because of this one film.

AKT: Volker Schlöndorff is the reference of choice when it comes to eels. You have a strangely new approach to split screen in Mood Indigo. Separating two kinds of weather.

MG: That's how I read the book. It was actually shot within two months. We see the wheat has grown. I thought, if I ever do a movie about this book, I would shoot it with a split screen and with two different times. We shot it two months apart.

AKT: You start the film with a Boris Vian quote - "This story is completely true since I made it up from beginning to end." It's quite funny to use this for your film, because you say he made it up, not you.

MG: That was the completion of his book. We didn't have it in the French version. I thought that for the American version maybe we could remind them that it's not reality. So they can accept things that are not very normal.

Suno's Max Osterweis with Opening Ceremony's Kate Foley at the Mood Indigo premiere
Suno's Max Osterweis with Opening Ceremony's Kate Foley at the Mood Indigo premiere Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: The film is filled with gadgets. Were there any gadgets that you are particularly fond of?

MG: I like the bell. The doorbell that is like an insect.

Anne-Katrin Titze: When did you first encounter L'Écume Des Jours, the book the film is based on?

Audrey Tautou: I think I was maybe 16 years old. As many teenagers in France, I discovered this book and after I read it I felt that I had become a little bit more adult. I was really intrigued by the imagination and phantasy of this universe.

AKT: Did you dream like that as a teenager? Were there gadgets you would imagine?

AT: Yeah! You know, everybody wants to have the jungle come inside their house. When there is no prohibition, when everything is your imagination and also the romanticism of the love story because of what happens to Chloé - when you're a teenager it has so many things you can dream about and be inspired.

AKT: Now, after being Chloé in the film, has your appreciation for the novel shifted?

AT: Now, for me it is more the movie and what Michel Gondry did. Because it has so much personality and is so unique.

Invitation to Mood Indigo after party at Willow Road
Invitation to Mood Indigo after party at Willow Road

AKT: I hope you still like flowers? [The prescribed cure for her illness, a water lily that grows in her lung, is a large amount of flowers to intimidate the growth].

AT: Yes, yes, I like flowers. It's a good way to think about flowers as healing wounds.

Tim League, CEO of Drafthouse Films, introduced the evening at the Tribeca Grand screening room. He spoke about their "secret mission": "Back in the ancient 1990s, it was actually a very cool thing for young people to go to the cinema and watch foreign language films. I don't know what happened between the 1990s and now, but it feels that this is eroding away. Our mission at Drafthouse Films is to make it cool to go to foreign language films."

Michel Gondry: Thank you for this very intimate projection. I'm very glad we're going to watch the movie like at home on the big television.

BAKED BY ELECTRICITY at Willow Road Mood Indigo after party
BAKED BY ELECTRICITY at Willow Road Mood Indigo after party Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Audrey Tautou: See you afterwards at the party. People would be invited if they liked the movie.

Willow Road near the Westside Highway in Chelsea hosted the after party.

Mood Indigo opens with a 95 minute theatrical release on July 18 in the US.


Editor's note: We have a review of the 125 minute original cut of Mood Indigo but readers should note that the international version is 95 minutes long and, in the opinion of our writers, better for it.

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