Incredible but true, 2022.
Written and directed by Quentin Dupieux.
Starring Alain Chabat, Léa Drucker, Benoît Magimel and Anaïs Demoustier.
Alain and Marie have moved into the suburban house of their dreams. But the real estate agent warned them: what’s in the basement may well change their lives forever.
French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux’s one-man industry of singularly bizarre films certainly shows no signs of stopping. The first of two feature films by the director to be released this year, Incredible but true it’s not among his best work, but it nonetheless sees him again using his trademark absurdity to poignantly explore the depths of the human soul.
This fun and straightforward 74-minute game chronicles the middle-aged boredom of a suburban couple, Alain (Alain Chabat) and Marie (Léa Drucker), who while preparing to buy a new home discover a highly unexpected hidden feature in their basement. It won’t spoil here, but needless to say, it forces Alain and Marie to reconsider the nature of both their relationship and their own lives.
What initially appears to be a satire on the perils of homeownership quickly changes tune to become a quirky relationship drama fueled by a searing, stabbing funny – examination of the ravages of time and the drastic measures one could take to fight the tide of nature.
It is worth clarifying that this is not as extravagant as, say, Rubber either jaws – which revolved around a sentient tire and a giant fly respectively – and ultimately perhaps Dupieux’s most accessible story to date. It’s easy to imagine this as a black mirror episode with some stylistic and tonal reworkings, even.
Dupieux’s deadpan, absurd vibe hasn’t gone anywhere, though; he’s a master at playing a long, moody montage to a gut-wrenching punchline, and once again proves that he’s not afraid to get profoundly silly at the same time. For example, a major subplot involves Alain’s boss, Gérard (Benoît Magimel), being fitted with an electronic penis controlled by a phone app to satisfy his always horny young girlfriend, Jeanne (Anaïs Demoustier).
Dupieux’s cast serves him well throughout, refusing to offer even the slightest hint that they’re in on the prank even though, apparently, we know they are. Léa Drucker is especially compelling as the distraught Marie; a woman torn between her marriage and a deep desire to improve herself with the help of the magical basement.
This is a tragicomedy that never forgets the inner humanity of its characters, as they struggle with the tumult of midlife crises while learning just how green the grass on the other side really is.
As usual for Dupieux, this is a majestic and understated work from a cinematographic perspective; the camerawork looks relatively straightforward, but it’s certainly well composed, serving its purpose without distracting from the strangeness of the story.
The film concludes with a lengthy non-verbal montage in which various situations play out supported by Jon Santo’s wonderfully offbeat musical score, and if you were any filmmaker other than Dupieux, you might wonder if the film’s third act was damaged in the first place. the laboratory and surviving material had to be stitched together into a meaningful collage. Somehow, as always, he makes such a potentially deflating ending work.
Certainly, there are those who would love to see a longer, more fleshed-out version of this film’s delightful central hypothesis, but Dupieux’s conciseness and restraint remain admirable; this thing is over and over as soon as he has said everything he wants.
Flashing Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
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