Michel Gondry was already in art school when he read Boris Vian’s “Foam on the Daydream,” the surrealist 1947 novel about a man who learns his wife has a fatal water lily stuck in her lung. The director says the book’s playful imagery — including the “pianocktail,” a piano that makes cocktails — were hugely inspirational, especially for his music videos (and especially the ones with Bjork).
Now he’s returned the favor by adapting Vian’s novel into “Mood Indigo,” starring Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou as the central couple. The book has loomed so large in his mind that, watching his movie, he’s not always sure which images were in the book and which he came up with himself.
If it’s hard to actualize all of his visual ideas: “When I get an idea I have a pretty clear sense of how I’m going to execute it. There are times when I realize I have too many ideas and I have to cut them down. It’s an important part of the work, but I’m used to it. You have to be realistic. Sometimes you don’t want to have too many ideas. For this movie, though, I had a lot of ideas. You couldn’t stop me.”
Making practical effects instead of doing them on computers: “I think there is a joy in making and building things. I love computers. But if you do something on a computer because you’re too lazy to build it, that’s a little depressing.”
How professional actors react to being on his sets: “I think it’s very exciting for them. Sometimes you think they would be distracted, but it’s positive. They forget about the job of being an actor and how they should do it this way or that way, and in my opinion they become better performers. They feel it’s like playing with toys. They go to the studio and all these things have been built for them to play with.”
Whether he’s seen the other film adaptations of Vian’s novel (one French one from 1968, one Japanese one from 2001): “I haven’t watched them. I should watch them. I was aware they existed before I made this movie, but I thought if they were bad it would be depressing and if they were good it would be depressing too. I’m going to watch them one day, I promise.”
On going back to make a movie in France: “It’s not that different. It’s the same job. I think maybe French actors are a little easier to deal with because they just want to follow what the director says. But it’s hard to generalize. It was very nice to be back in France after some time, working with actors I always dreamed of working with. And sometimes it’s easier to express my thoughts with French actors, especially when I’m tired.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge