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Film / Mood Indigo

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Mood Indigo (L'écume des jours—"Froth of the Days") is a 2013 film from France directed by Michel Gondry and based on a novel by Boris Vian. The novel has the same French title as the movie but in English is titled Froth on the Daydream.

Colin (Romain Duris) is an Idle Rich young man who has little to do to fill his days other than inventing stuff like the "pianocktail"—a piano with the keys connected to various bottles of alcohol that makes different cocktails depending on what notes one plays. One day, his friend Chick invites him to a party, where he meets an enchantingly beautiful brunette, Chloe (Audrey Tautou). They fall in love, and after a whirlwind courtship, they get married. Meanwhile, Chick has fallen in love with Alise, niece of Colin's live-in chef Nicolas (Omar Sy).

All of that takes place against a whimsical background that features deeply surrealistic, bizarre imagery. However, at the midpoint of the film, Chloe takes ill. The mood of the film takes a sharp turn, going from shiny, joyful technicolor to darkness and death.

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Tropes:

  • Based on a True Story: Subverted with the opening dedication, a quote from Boris Vian.
    "This story is completely true since I made it up from beginning to end."
  • Body Horror: Chloe is killed by a water lily, which takes root and grows in her lung.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: As the mood grows more and more grim as the film progresses to its Downer Ending, the color palette gets grayer and grayer, until the last scenes are actually shot in black and white.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Taken to an absurd extreme when Jean-Sol Partre gives a speech from a sort of stand/lectern that is actually a gigantic pipe.
  • Door Judo: Colin and Chick go to a pharmacy for Chloe's medicine but it is closed. Chick prepares himself to bust the door open. As he lowers his shoulder and charges, the pharmacist opens the door. Chick goes flying through the door and crashes against some shelving on the far wall.
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  • Downer Ending: Chloe dies, Chick kills himself, and Colin is left in despair.
  • Dramatic Drop: A woman at a party evidently likes Nicolas, as shown when she dramatically drops a whole tray of hors d'oevures and rushes over to embrace him.
  • Driven to Suicide: Chick kills himself after Alise murders Jean-Sol Partre.
  • Empathic Environment: Colin's apartment grows steadily dirtier and mold-ridden after Chloe falls ill, and there's also the matter of Nicolas's Rapid Aging.
  • Fanservice Extra: Colin and Chloe pass by a car in a showroom. There are two topless models inside the car. Why not?
  • Incurable Cough of Death: If it weren't obvious enough that Chloe is going to die, it would be when she starts coughing not long after first taking ill.
  • Living Shadow: Colin goes running home when he's told that Chloe fainted. The shadows he casts as he runs through the streets become three-dimensional figures that chase after him. They chase him until they're both hit and run over by a truck.
  • Medium Awareness: A whole room full of screenwriters are shown typing out the story to Mood Indigo. At one point Colin gains entrance to the room and tries to write a happier ending, but is forcibly removed.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Chick is a fanatical devotee of philosopher "Jean Sol-Partre", which is an obvious goof on Jean-Paul Sartre, one of Boris Vian's friends.
  • Personal Raincloud: A weird example of this. Colin and Chloe are picnicking on their honeymoon when Nicolas, who's been driving them, hits a button on the controller. The shot goes to a split screen where it is pouring rain on the left side, where Colin is, but still bright and sunny on the right side, where Chloe is, on the other side of the table.
  • Rapid Aging: Nicolas ages "eight years in ten days" as things grow steadily darker (literally) in Colin's apartment.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: The whole film, surrealism from beginning to end. Colin puts on a Duke Ellington record, and the circular record turns the room circular. Colin goes flower shopping, and as the florist shows him different varieties of flowers, her dress changes to match each kind of flower.
  • Split Screen: Part of the Surrealism comes in a scene where a split screen shows it pouring rain on the left and bright and sunny on the right.
    Chloe: It's very, very, very, very mixed weather.
  • Surrealism: The film is filled with bizarre, dreamlike, surrealistic imagery from beginning to end. Colin's doorbell is an old-fashioned ringing bell that, when it rings, grows legs and skitters around the wall like a roach. Whenever Colin and Chick shake hands, their wrists rotate 360 degrees. Colin has a mouse in his apartment, the mouse being a tiny man in a mouse costume. Colin and Chloe dash away from the altar after their wedding, and all of a sudden they're completely underwater. When Colin is getting dressed for his wedding, Chick helps him with his tie, by nailing the tie to his neck. The announcer at a public skating rink is—a gigantic bird.
  • The Television Talks Back: Part of the bizarre surrealism. Nicolas is watching a cooking show with a "Chef Gouffe". Chef Gouffe not only talks back to Nicolas, he hands him ingredients through the screen.
  • Time Skip: A camera spits out a Polaroid of Colin and Chloe. He flips it over and the words "Six months later" are written on the picture. Cut to six months later, and Colin and Chloe living together.
  • Titled After the Song: In English, anyway. Oddly, while Duke Ellington music plays in the film and an actor plays Ellington in faux-Stock Footage, Ellington's song "Mood Indigo" does not appear in the soundtrack.
  • Two-Act Structure: Almost exactly halfway through the film, a water lily spore settles in Chloe's lung. The second half of the film is much darker than the fairy-tale first half, as everything goes wrong and tragedy strikes.

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