Bertrand Blier’s 2005 semi rom-com How Much Do You Love Me? centers around the not so fanciful notion of a man falling in love with an Italian prostitute in Paris. The visual rendering of the narrative, however, makes it come across with the same sort of fantastical nature as a later film by Michel Gondry, Mood Indigo.
Opening with the rich, seedy blue tones of a bar filled with whores beckoning to François (Bernard Campan) from his vantage point on the street, cinematographer François Catonné establishes the surrealist vibe of the film. Like the protagonist in Mood Indigo, Colin, François uses the power (or, rather, illusion) of having a lot of money to get what he wants. In François’ case, what he wants is the affection of one of the bar’s most high class–and highly sought out–prostitutes, Daniela de Montmartre (Monica Bellucci).
Allured by his proposal of paying her 100,000 euros a month with his lotto winnings, Daniela accepts his offer and goes to live with him in his modest apartment. The parallels between Mood Indigo and How Much Do You Love Me? continue when it is revealed that François has a heart condition that’s exacerbated with too much excitement and stimulation (i.e. Daniela is a huge threat to his health). Chloé (Audrey Tautou) in Mood Indigo also possesses a health condition thanks to accidentally swallowing a water lily that gets stuck in her lung while they’re on their honeymoon. And while, yes, hers is certainly more fantastical in nature, it still hinders her from being as close to Colin sexually as she would like to be. Gradually, however, François overcomes his condition in order to enjoy the fruits of being with Daniela, only for her to abandon him to return to the trade under the influence of her “gangster” boyfriend, Charly (Gérard Depardieu). Crushed by her sudden absconding, François tries to take up with a different prostitute, only to be pursued by Daniela, who confesses that she has another man in her life. When his heart acts up after his exchange with her, she takes him to her boyfriend’s house to get the rest of her things so she can be with him. Their reunion proves hollow, however, when François’ neighbor points out that only someone faking it could sound that operatic in bed. Up to this point, tempered moments of hypnagogic transitions from day to night possess the sort of abruptness that makes one question whether this is reality or not.
The reverie-like scenes pick up toward the end of the film as well, when Charly seeks out Daniela with a gun after she’s left him and François has refused to pay him the 4 million euros he wanted to “sell” Daniela to him permanently. Of course, after Daniela has already briefly deserted François yet again to see if she still enjoys sex with Charly, François feels inclined to sleep with his neighbor as a sort of vindictive reaction against Daniela. In the end, an impromptu party that also possesses echoes of the fantastical occurs when Daniela and François reunite. It is during this scene, however, that Daniela becomes enraptured by one of François’ work colleagues and goes with him to another room for a dalliance. When François finds them, a tragic flash-forward of Daniela, the fallen whore-turned-housewife, coming up the stairs in a plain dress with groceries justifies her infidelity as a means to escape such a future. From there, another series of bizarre occurrences that could be just as much fantasy as actuality transpire, with François’ co-workers telling him she’s an unavoidable whore, and always will be. As François sheds a tear for Daniela’s addiction to sluttery, Blier transitions slowly to a happy ending, one with Daniela and François sitting in the sunshine (another abrupt case of night turned to day at random) at the breakfast table, concluding its Mood Indigo-esque capriciousness in aesthetic and narrative.