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Mood swings hamper ‘Indigo’

The eccentric whimsy and invention overfill the screen of Michel Gondry’s “Mood Indigo,” an adaptation of a novel by the Frenchman who wrote “I Spit on Your Graves.” Set in an alternate “Brazil”/ “Delicatessen”/ “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” reality, it’s a blur of queer gadgets and odd doo-dads, see-through limousines and dinner tables on roller skates, all in a tale concocted by an office full of women clattering at a conveyor belt of typewriters.

That it doesn’t add up to much more than eye candy can be attributed to the batting average of its director, Gondry — whose latest film has more in common with his inscrutable failures “Human Nature” and “The Science of Sleep” than with “Be Kind, Rewind,” or his great, romantic triumph, “Eternal Sunshine.”

Romain Duris (“Chinese Puzzle,” “Heartbreaker”) is Colin, a quirky inventor whose latest gizmo is his finest achievement. The Pianocktail concocts novelty cocktails to suit whatever piece you play on the instrument. Colin has an ear for Duke Ellington’s tunes, “Mood Indigo” in particular.

Nicolas (Omar Sy) is his daffy live-in chef, whose culinary creations literally dance (stop-motion animation) across the plate. He gets his ideas from a TV chef, because if he’s missing an ingredient or spice, the chef on TV reaches through the ancient cathode ray tube and hands it to him.

Colin’s best friend is Chick (Gad Elmaleh of “Midnight in Paris”). He’s obsessed with his favorite philosopher, Jean Sol Partre. Cute. But Chick has fallen for Alise (Aissa Maiga), Nicolas’ sister, and Nicolas has found love with Isis (Charlotte Le Bon). Colin is beside himself.

“I demand to fall in love, too!” he shouts, in French with English subtitles.

And so he does, with none other than Chloe — the sparkly Audrey Tautou of “Amelie” fame. Their courtship isn’t particularly charming or warm, which matters all the more when Chloe, inhaling an enchanted snowflake as she sleeps, develops an illness in which plants grow out of her lungs. Colin could possibly come up with some invention to save her.

But the only thing that keeps her alive is covering her in flowers, which exhausts Colin’s finances, forcing him to take a succession of terrible jobs, including human plant cover. (People are paid to strip and lie down on piles of dirt so that brass acorns can germinate into proton guns.)

The polymath Boris Vian’s novel “L’Écume des Jours” (“Froth on the Daydream” is as good a translation as any) has been turned into an opera, an earlier French film and the Japanese movie “Chloe.” Perhaps those adaptations are more coherent, more emotionally accessible, than “Mood Indigo.”


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