Kalamazoo Film Society

Reviews of our coming features

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“Mood Indigo”: Michel Gondry finds love in Paris

Reviewed by Kenneth Turan of The LA Times, 17 Jul 2014

To call Michel Gondry's "Mood Indigo" visually inventive is not even scratching the surface, something like characterizing Apple as a company that's had a certain amount of success.

Wacky, surreal, insanely playful, "Mood Indigo" is a film that believes that too much is not enough. Even for a wild and crazy director like Gondry, whose films run the gamut from the exceptional ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") through the unwatchable ("Human Nature"), this is something out of the ordinary.

Adapted from Boris Vian's 1947 cult novel "L'Ecume des Jours" (Froth on the Daydream) a cultural touchstone in France, "Mood Indigo" is definitely an odd film, both giddy and melancholy, engaging and disturbing.

If it doesn't have as much emotional resonance as "Spotless Mind," its visuals are off the charts. And its brisk 94-minute running time (more than 35 minutes shorter than the French release) means that though the relentlessness of the on-screen antics threatens to wear you out, the film is over before that can quite happen.

Set in a completely made-up world that Gondry and production designer Stéphane Rozenbaum created from bits and pieces of Paris past, a world that includes eels coming out of faucets and plants sprouting instantly, "Mood Indigo" presents the kind of concoctions that Disney cartoon inventor Gyro Gearloose would love.

Chief among these is the "pianocktail," a machine that mixes drinks in a manner dictated by what is played on a piano keyboard. This bizarre contraption, which took the production team months to build, is the proud invention of protagonist Colin (Romain Duris).

An independently wealthy young man whose apartment includes a doorbell that metamorphoses into a crawling beetle when rung, Colin has two best friends, his chef and major-domo Nicholas ("The Untouchables'" Omar Sy) and Chick (Gad Elmaleh).

But when Chick announces that he has met the girl of his dreams in Alise (Aissa Maiga), Colin starts to feel left out. "Solitude is unbearable," he pouts. "I demand to fall in love too."

No sooner said than done. Colin goes to a party where he meets Chloe (Audrey Tautou), who just happens to share a name with one of his favorite pieces of Duke Ellington music.

Both are self-conscious, but after Chloe says "let's bumble together," romance takes its course. Seeing the happy couple travel over Paris in a cloud shaped like a swan (or a swan shaped like a cloud) is to experience the romantic Gondry at his dreamiest.

But one of the things that gives "Mood Indigo" and the novel it's based on a particular flavor is that the happiness Chick and Colin have found is not fated to last.

Chick, as it turns out, is ruinously addicted to acquiring the works of philosopher Jean-Sol Partre. The sections where Chick visits dealers and discusses the finer points of his acquisitions are as dead-on a satire of the antiquarian book world as you are going to find.

Even worse, in the midst of their happiness, Colin's beloved Chloe gets seriously ill. The malady, as a doctor played by Gondry himself discovers, is that a large water lily is growing in her lung. This may sound ridiculous, but in the context of the film it is deadly serious.

With its indefinable, almost indescribable combination of whimsy, sentiment and strangeness, "Mood Indigo" (co-written by Gondry and Luc Bossi) will not be to all tastes at all times. But frame for frame, the amount of invention going on here can't be believed unless it's seen.

Unique ‘Boyhood’ tracks its characters over a 12-year evolution

Reviewed by Stephen Rea in Philadelphia Enquirer, 24 Jul 2014

‘Time’s going by,” the grandmother in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood observes, almost casually, but with the certitude of experience on her side. And indeed, this singular, soulful film is about just that: time going by.

Shot over the course of 12 years — a few weeks every year, beginning in 2002, its central cast reuniting to portray the respective members of a middle-class Texas family — Boyhood does something no other film has done before: It tracks a child’s forward motion, from grade school to college dorm, from dreamy-eyed kid to curious, gangly teen, in one progressing flow. Mason Evans Jr. — the boy played by newcomer Ellar Coltrane — is 6 when the film starts, and 18 when it ends.

The scope of the film is vast, but intimate, too. We come to know “MJ,” and his struggling single mom, Olivia (a terrific Patricia Arquette), his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the filmmaker’s daughter), and his dad, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), like they are our own.

Linklater’s concept is as simple as it is bold — and it opens a door into a new kind of storytelling, where the passage of time propels, and compels, the narrative. Where the faces and features of the actors — children and adults — change; where for once in a movie, time is real.

In Boyhood, there are few “big moments,” no Hollywood epiphanies with a neon-limned hand pointing us to their significance. Instead, Mason scrawls graffiti on a wall, asks Dad why he can’t use bumpers in the bowling alley (“Life doesn’t give you bumpers,” Hawke responds — what a dad thing to say!), plays video games, makes friends, forgets homework, fights with his sister, ogles a Victoria’s Secret catalog, tries beer, smokes pot, falls for a girl. Carefully observed, this stream of small moments takes on a kind of quiet, metaphoric power.

But there are wrenching scenes, too: Mason’s stepdad (Marco Perella), a college professor, starts boozing ferociously, and raining abuse on his kids, his stepkids, their mother. But Olivia is nothing if not resilient : Somehow, while raising a son and daughter and barely making ends meet, she goes back to college, gets a degree and then another, and becomes a professor herself.

Hawke’s Mason Sr. evolves, too, from a mostly absentee stoner dad to someone who insists that his kids talk to him straight and true. By the time Mason is finishing up high school, where he’s taken to photography with a passion, his father has remarried, has a baby, and traded his beloved GTO for a minivan.

Boyhood clocks in at a little under three hours, but it doesn’t feel long for a minute. In what amounts to a small chunk of a day, we get to see — and feel, and fall into — a huge part of these people’s lives.

Is it dumb to say, “Wow?”

I don’t care. Wow.

About our current feature and previous films

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Kalamazoo Film Society
PO Box 51655
Kalamazoo MI 49005
USA

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