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'Eternal Sunshine' Director Talks About His Surreal 'Mood Indigo' And His Childhood

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Michel Gondry (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
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There's a childlike wonderment to Michel Gondry's latest film, Mood Indigo, which brings a surreal and dreamy love story to life. If you look back at the childhood of the filmmaker best known for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it makes sense how he's carried on an imaginative world in his body of work throughout the years.

In the same vein as Eternal Sunshine, the French-language movie, Mood Indigo, follows a doomed love story between free-wheeling bachelor Colin (Romain Duris) falls in love with Chloé (Audrey Tatou). However, just after the happy couple marries, Chloé becomes ill when a water lily grows in her lung. It's adapted from the classic 1947 novel "L’écume des Jours."

Gondry told LAist that there may be something drawing him towards these type of sad love stories. "Well, maybe I’m a melancholic person and I’m certainly nostalgic so there’s some feelings that I understand, so it makes me more inclined to do these types of stories," he said.

He added that he chose to make a movie about this classic novel—one that all French students read in school—because "it was really eye-opening and accepting [of] freedom of expression" for him and all generations who have read it, Gondry said.

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But there is another element to Colin and Chloé's story: the world they live in is a fantastical and futuristic one. When the keys of a pianococktail are played, they produce a libation in return; there's a perennially shrinking house and you can ride a bubble-shaped car designed to look like cute clouds through the city. Even a popular dance called the "biglemoi" has the characters dancing with stretched-out legs that bend in a parabolic shape.

Most of these effects aren't from CGI, and instead employed through the use of stop-motion, animation, and puppets. It's Gondry's signature DIY style and something he's done for a long time (even when he directed music videos for the likes of Björk and The White Stripes).

Gondry attributes this to his childhood, where he spent his days making cars out of whatever he could get his hands on in his house—from chairs to the sofa and TV. He would shoot shorts and animations on his grandfather's Super 8 camera with his cousin. The first short he remembered filming was a stop-motion video of his cousin running through a long countryside road, where they edited it to make it appear like he was running as fast as Superman.

"That’s how my brain's imagination would work," he said. "This object would mix with this object, [and then] there’s this new object. I think doing that with CGI would have another meaning to me. It’s a bit nostalgic, but it’s not really, because I find it more magical."

You can look back to Gondry's childhood to find the origins of the futuristic inventions in Mood Indigo and its liberal use of Duke Ellington's music (the title of the film itself and Chloé's name are both the jazz great's tracks). Gondry grew up in a household that celebrated both: His father was a musician who built instruments and sold them, and his grandfather is credited for inventing one of the first synthesizers.

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Gondry will be taking a break from the surreal in his next film, which he'll start shooting in three weeks, about two teenagers who take a road trip through France. It'll be partly based on his memories and will be "much more realistic than the last movie," he said.

Mood Indigo opens Friday at the Nuart Theatre in West L.A.