In “Mood Indigo,” (opening Friday), Audrey Tautou — perhaps best known to American audiences for playing the title role in the 2001 film “Amelie” — plays Chloe, a beautiful and idealistic young woman who falls in love with the wealthy, creative and imaginative Colin (Romain Duris). Based on the novel “Froth on the Daydream,” by Boris Vian, “Mood Indigo” is director Michel Gondry’s cinematic homage to Vian and his story about Chloe being stricken with a bizarre disease that causes a water lily to grow inside one of her lungs. Colin — desperate to keep her alive — learns that surrounding her with other flowers causes the lily to wither.
Tautou called recently to discuss this very different and fantasy-filled movie.
Q: Is it true that even before you became involved with the film, you were a big fan of the novel upon which it’s based — true?
A: Oh yes, I read this novel when I was 15 years old. As you may know, this novel is very, very, very popular in France — and practically every French kid has read this novel. As I say, I read it when I was a teenager. I liked it so much. I like the fantasy, the romance of it, and who it goes dark as well. There’s so much amazing imagination in it.
Q: How do you compare the film to the book and how Michel Gondry interpreted the novel?
A: It’s very surrealistic and obviously with the book, there is only how he described everything with words. Michel did a marvelous job of using cinema to bring those words to life. I know that Michel was very inspired by Boris Vian’s universe. I think he managed to bring some of his own creativity to the project — and I also believe he meshed perfectly with Boris Vian’s style. For that reason, I think he was the right person — crazy enough to make this film.
Q: I understand that you regret never having played Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet,” and this was perhaps the closest thing you could do at this point. Is that true?
A: I think there are a number of similarities between the two. I love the ill-fated romance aspect of both. It’s so romantic and sad when a pure love is going to be destroyed by the cruelty of life. That makes for great drama.
Q: What did you like most about playing Chloe?
A: I loved her freshness and enthusiasm. I also liked it because sometimes as an actress I like to make people cry! [Laughs]. But seriously, I mostly loved being in this movie because I think it allowed Michel [Gondry] to express the maximum amount of his creativity — and put it up there on the screen.
It also is important to note that while this is quite the surreal and fantasy-filled film, the characters — my own, Chloe, and Romain’s Colin — are very real and relatable to many people. I think it gives the film a very organic quality which I love.
Q: How did you go about finding the character of Chloe in order to play her?
A: In the book, Boris Vian didn’t say much about her. I mean he did not really describe her. So I didn’t have any material to research or rely on. So, I had some ideas about how she would speak and carry herself. But the way Michel Gondry works is very spontaneous. He wants you to jump into your parts — and just do it — without too much thinking ahead of time. He really wanted us to be natural and forget the camera. So that helped me with my part, because I didn’t have to obsess about her too much. I just did the part without thinking, because that’s what Michel wanted. It was the first time I made a movie without knowing ahead of time what my character would ultimately look like. In many ways, that was liberating.
Q: On a lighter note, flowers play a very important visual role in this film. Do you have a favorite flower?
A: Yes I do. It’s the poppy. They are so colorful, but also so fragile because once cut they die so quickly. I like the ethereal nature of them.
Q: You play a seriously ill girl in “Mood Indigo.” Did that present any challenges for you?
A: I really didn’t think too much about that. I didn’t want to think about the end. I don’t like to think about death. I don’t want this film to be a premonition for me!
Q: What was your reaction the first time you saw the finished film?
A: It was great and such a rich experience! It was like looking at a whole new world. Michel really created a new Paris for me. I was very impressed with how much visual poetry was in the film.