Boris Vian holds the distinction of being the only author who was so outraged by a film adaptation of his work that he died during its screening. Before keeling over from a heart attack while watching Michel Gast’s 1959 take on I Spit on Your Grave, Vian stood up and shouted: “Those guys are supposed to be American? My ass!”
Although I don’t pretend to be a Vian scholar, Michel Gondry’s adaptation of Vian’s 1947 novel L’Écume des jours (here given the English-language title Mood Indigo) is truer to the original than those attempted by Charles Belmont (in 1968) and Go Riju (under the title Chloe in 2001), in terms of visuals, spirit, and critical eye.
Wealthy Colin (Roman Duris), inventor of the “pinocktail” (a piano which makes cocktails based on what tune is played and how one plays it), meets Chloé (Audrey Tautou) at a party and is immediately smitten. Their romance develops in tandem with that of Chick (Gad Elmaleh) and Alise (Aïssa Maïga), and at one point the couples literally race each other to the altar in small cars. Chloé suffers from a surreal medical condition—a lily on the lung—and during her long convalescence, the happiness she shares with Colin is slowly undermined. Chick meanwhile squanders the money Colin gave him to marry Alise buying up the works of philosopher Jean-Sol Partre. Gondry’s trademark contraptions and lo-fi special effects are a perfect fit for this material, and so, against the odds, he creates an experience that’s at once emotionally potent and visually delightful.