L’écume des jours, the latest film from acclaimed French film director Michael Gondry, and starring the woman who must surely be regarded as France’s sweetheart, Audrey Tautou (whom I have loved and adored since her star turn as the elfin Amélie), looks like being the most deliciously quirky movie of the year.
That’s not surprising given its pedigree.
Michael Gondry is known for his delightfully offbeat, unusual movies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet) and The Science of Sleep (Gael García Bernal and Charlotte Gainsburg) that artfully blur the line between reality and fantasy, frequently combining the two in an intoxicatingly eccentric melange of ideas.
They are quirky, decidedly unusual but never less than utterly beguiling, dropping you into a world that makes no sense at all on one level but perfect sense on quite another.
L’écume des jours, based on the 1947 novel by Boris Vian (which has been translated both as Mood Indigo, Foam of the Daze and Froth of the Daydream) looks like it will be another worthy entry in his canon of cartoonishly-surreal human dramas.
And he will be wonderfully assisted by the supremely talented pairing of Audrey Tautou (Amélie, Coco Avant Chanel, Hunting and Gathering, Delicacy) and Romain Duris (Déjà Mort, Paris, The Spanish Apartment, Molière), who have worked together on two other movies, the riotously hilarious, and popular L’auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment) and Les Poupées Russes (The Russian Dolls).
They have proven chemistry, comic smarts and a history of bringing real humanity and depth to even the quirkiest of roles.
And these are quirky, if heartfelt, roles.
Tautou plays the part of Chloë, a woman who falls head-over-heels in love with the rich and succesful Colin played by Duris only find herself growing steadily more unwell on her honeymoon.
As her condition deteriorates, doctors discover the source of her great pain is a water lily growing out of heart, which necessitates her being surrounded by flowers at all times.
As you can imagine this is not a cheap treatment, which soon exhausts Colin’s considerable funds – part of which he gives away to good friend Chick so he can marry his beloved fellow Jean-Pol Sartre-admiring soulmate Anise – and though blissfully happy at the start, both couples seem to be headed for sad, if unorthodox, ends.
Quite what the ends are is well known to readers of the book, but suffice to say it is the sort of ending that Europeans, not weighed down by the need to make almost every movie an affirmation of redemption and positivity, are pre-disposed too and it may require copious use of tissues.
Possibly – I can neither confirm nor deny.
What I can say is that along the way you will be treated to an enchanting film that dares to bravely imagine what would happen if our stayed and ordered existence ran headlong into a fantastical world of whimsy and magic, and people did their best to craft meaningful lives within it.
It looks like vintage Gondry and I can’t to spend a couple of surreal hours in his company once more.