IN 2003 AND 2009, Michel Gondry's music videos were collected, some on Palm Pictures' The Work of Director Michel Gondry DVD and the rest by Gondry himself with Michel Gondry 2: More Videos (Before and After DVD 1). Years later, the videos remain remarkable things: Tiny explosions of exuberant, eye-widening creativity set to the likes of Björk, the White Stripes, Daft Punk, and Radiohead. These pop bursts equal Gondry's best feature films—Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dave Chappelle's Block Party, The Science of Sleep—in their power to astonish. Gondry might not be the most reliable director [insert obligatory Green Hornet reference here], but when given the means to make his imagination real, few can equal the sights he conjures.
There are plenty of those sights in Mood Indigo, which in America is being released in a 94-minute-long version of Gondry's two-hour international cut. At first, the film blurs by with the inconsequential joy of Gondry's videos: In a Paris infested with stop-motion animation, wealthy Colin (Romain Duris) revels in a world where dancing legs turn to rubber; where a "pianocktail" squirts out cocktails tuned to the notes struck on its keys; where, when characters experience euphoria, Gondry shoots them suspended underwater, smiling and slow as the world speeds on. Everything changes when Colin meets Chloé (Audrey Tautou), and everything changes again when Chloé becomes ill. As she sleeps near a broken window, a snowflake drifts into her open mouth, Gondry's camera following it as it comes to rest near her slowly beating heart.
It's easy to think of that shot as one more moment of whimsy in a film full of them, but this is something more sinister. Darkness is looming and, like Colin, we've taken Gondry's fantastical world for granted. Which shouldn't be done: Even if Mood Indigo doesn't quite match Gondry's best, a Gondry passion project should never be overlooked.