After a string of projects in America (including the masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), French filmmaker Michel Gondry returns home to let his manic imagination run wild. This film is a riot of movement, as the sets themselves seem to be alive, packing every moment of the film with visual absurdity, witty gags, colourful characters and soulful music. And while the mayhem is sometimes a bit overwhelming, the story's romantic moods resonate deeply, turning a silly movie into something surprisingly moving.
It's based on Boris Vian's 1947 novel L'Ecume des Jours, which has been adapted into two previous films and a Russian opera. In Paris, Colin (Romain Duris) is an independently wealthy bachelor whose friend Nicolas (Omar Sy) cooks and cleans and keeps music echoing around his chaotic flat. But when Nicolas admits that he's falling for their friend Isis (Charlotte Le Bon), and Colin's best friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh) announces that he has a new girlfriend Alise (Aissa Maiga), Colin decides maybe he should find a woman himself. Then he meets Chloe (Audrey Tautou), and the spark between them is instant. But just as they get married, Chloe becomes ill when a tiny waterlily takes root in her lung, and the only treatment is to encircle her with flowers.
As Chloe's condition deteriorates, so does the state of Colin's entire apartment, and eventually the colour begins to drain from all of Paris as well, while friendships are strained by the possibility of death. It's a startling on-screen transformation, as Gondry keeps everything in motion, using any kind of visual trickery imaginable, mainly effects that take place right on the film set, like puppetry and stop-motion. The zaniness continues in the background even after the characters' stories steal focus from them. Yes, the cast members are so strong that they manage to rise above the chaos. As always, Duris brings real charm to the whole film, generating sparky chemistry with everyone around him, and his chemistry with Tautou is seriously sweet.
Gondry also spares a bit of time to follow the side stories of engaging actors Sy and Elmaleh: Nicolas ages before his time by caring so diligently for Colin and Chloe, and Chick must delay his wedding because he spends all his money on an obsession with an existential philosopher. Yes, underneath all of the hyperactive motion, this story progresses like a 19th century novel, a tale of the power of love that's both celebratory and cautionary. So even if the imagery is indulgent and over-insistent, the themes are deeply resonant.
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Friday 18th July 2014
Distributed by: Drafthouse Films
Production compaines: Brio Films, SCOPE Invest, Scope Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 62 Rotten: 37
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Michel Gondry
Producer: Luc Bossi
Screenwriter: Michel Gondry, Luc Bossi
Starring: Romain Duris as Colin, Audrey Tautou as Chloë, Gad Elmaleh as Chick, Omar Sy as Nicolas, Aïssa Maïga as Alise, Charlotte Le Bon as Isis, Sacha Bourdo as La souris, Philippe Torreton as Jean-Sol Partre, Vincent Rottiers as Le religieux, Laurent Lafitte as Le directeur de société, Natacha Régnier as La marchande de remède, Zinedine Soualem as Le vieil homme de l'usine d'armement, Alain Chabat as Jules Gouffé, Marina Rozenman as La duchesse de Bovouard, Wilfred Benaïche as Le sénéchal, Tilly Scott Pedersen as Fille Rousse
Also starring: Michel Gondry
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