Each month, the Indie Prof reviews a current film in the theater and a second film that is available on DVD or an instant-streaming service.
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Mood Indigo (2014)
This latest feature from Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) has all the elements of his best film and reminds us why Gondry is one of the most unique writer/directors working today. His whimsical and somewhat-divorced-from-reality style are wonderful if whimsy is your thing; the style can sometimes overwhelm the material, however, and this new film slides back and forth over that border. Most of the time, it sincerely delights and delivers what the best films can: a transcendent experience.
The story follows wealthy bachelor Colin who meets and falls in love with Chloè. They have a whirlwind and somewhat unusual romance that runs through a Paris that perhaps only Luis Buñuel could put on screen. But Chloè soon turns ill with a rare disease—caused by a flower growing in her lung—and Colin sets out a find a cure. Exactly. Yet what sounds like farce is presented so honestly that the characters are real and tactile, not animated or caricatured.
It is a sweet and funny film that takes a decidedly dour turn in the third act. Perhaps it is simply allegory for terminal illness of any kind, or perhaps it is a meditation on the fleeting qualities of ebullient romance. Or both. It also a delight to watch and soak in.
The directing is excellent, the acting is inspired, and we are immersed in a world so unlike our own, but yet, it looks exactly like our own world, that we are transported into it quite gently.
Gondry’s style can be too much at times, but that “too much” also injects the film with energy and passion that so many films lack. I will take a film that strikes out from time to time as I watch it swing for the fences at every turn. In the end, this film delivers exactly what it promises.
You will like this film if you enjoyed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and/or Amelie (before the third act).
Starts 8/1 at the Chez Artiste.
Frances Ha (2013)
This quirky, fun, and irreverent film is the latest from director/writer Noah Baumbach. Best known for The Squid and the Whale (2005), he has also written and/or co-written several other well-known films, such as The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). With Frances Ha, he shows himself to be not just a skilled writer, but also a highly competent director who seems to be most adept at letting his actors run with the material. And it always helps when the material is fresh. The material is certainly fresh here, the black and white cinematography helps to elevate the film’s themes, and we find ourselves becoming more and more immersed in the film as it moves along. This is one of those rare films that both surprises and delights by the time the credits run.
Greta Gerwig plays Frances, a woman determined to make it as a dancer in NY even though she is short on natural talent. When the film opens, she seems to have everything she wants—a best friend, a job, and comfortable place to live. But Frances wants more, and she decides to follow her dream to be a dancer.
What follows is not just an endearing story of a woman pursuing her dreams, but a fresh presentation on material we’ve seen before. Watching director Baumbach and skilled actors such as Gerwig is the attraction here. The film reminds of Woody Allen’s better, earlier work, such as Manhattan or Annie Hall. It is an indie film that knows its roots and its (lack of) genre.
You will like this film if you enjoyed Annie Hall, Her, and/or The Squid and the Whale.
Now available on Netflix and the Redbox.
This film, along with all other films I’ve reviewed, may be found at the Sam Gary Library. Look for the Indie Prof display at the end of the DVD racks.
Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., teaches Cinema Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.