Dishing out another high-concept, low-fi cult comedy that could only emerge from a brain as deranged as his own, Quentin Dupieux’s Incredible But True (Incroyable mais vrai) is a worthy addition to a canon that keeps getting weirder with each film, taking the director so far into left field that he’s practically built another ballpark by now.
Indeed, with nine features in just over ten years, the iconoclastic auteur, who also goes by the electronic music DJ name of Mr. Oizo (as in oiseau, which is French for bird), has created a sub-genre that sits somewhere between Surrealist gag, dime store science-fiction and exploitation movie made with a capital B. His films are far from perfect, though Dupieux’s record has more hits than misses, and they all share a brand of deadpan humor, visual cunning and wanton insanity that make them enjoyable even when they don’t exactly work.
Incredible But True
More fun from France’s reigning absurdist.
Dupieux’s films also tend to have short running times and succinct third acts that aren’t fully realized, as if he’s unleashed a brand new concept without thinking it all the way through. This is more or less the case with Incredible But True, a clever and sometimes hilarious take on middle-aged Frenchies finding the fountain of youth in ways you’d never dream of, and then paying the price for their desire to remain eternally young, and, well, hung.
All seems normal at first — if such a thing is possible in a Dupieux movie, which it isn’t — for the 40 to 50-something couple of Alain (Alain Chabat) and Marie (Léa Drucker), who visit a prospective home in the far suburbs of Paris and immediately decide to snatch it up, even if they don’t necessarily need to invest in new real estate.
We learn why soon enough: The house, which is an otherwise tasteful modernist-looking structure with a spacious backyard, comes with one very special feature. Call it a time machine, or else a kind of time-travel vortex in which you climb down a trap door in the basement and take three days off your life, all the while moving 12 hours ahead.
It’s a bit tricky to follow, but not too much so, and Marie quickly grows addicted to the idea of de-aging, doing the time warp twice a day while Alain hopelessly watches from the sidelines, running the risk of losing his long-term partner in the process.
But that’s not all. Alain’s boss and good buddy, Gérard (a schlumpy looking Benoît Magimel), shows up for dinner one night with his younger girlfriend, Jeanne (a bleached blond Anaïs Demoustier), and by the time coffee is served he reveals his own secret: He’s had a brand new “electronic penis” installed in Japan. Now you may wonder what that is, and although we never see the device itself there are enough detailed explanations given so that we understand it’s some kind of artificially intelligent phallus, operated remotely by an app on your iPhone.
Gérard is unashamed he’s had it put in to replace the real thing, and Jeanne seems satisfied with the results. But like Marie’s abuse of the time travel phenomenon in her own home, Gérard’s desire to be all-male, all-the-time will have dire consequences.
Incredible But True is basically a surreal parable about people wanting to stop or reverse their biological clocks and getting their comeuppances for it. What makes it quite fun, and definitely funny in spots, is how realistically Dupieux depicts events, turning the outlandish into something entirely credible, at least for the main characters. We never doubt the sincerity of their actions, which makes us believe things even when they can’t be true.
It’s a method the director has applied well in his best works (the 2010 breakthrough Rubber, the horror-comedy Deerskin and the buddy comedy Mandibles), and it works for most of this film — until you get the feeling he doesn’t quite know how to end it, with the last reel consisting mostly of back-to-back montage sequences, as if the story were on fast forward.
That doesn’t really take away from the movie’s charms, though, and Dupieux deserves credit for going against the grain of a French cinema that tends to be grounded in pretention or worthiness rather than something original, lively and a bit absurd (okay, very absurd).
By now he’s perfected a method that has him doing it all by himself, with Dupieux taking credit for writing, directing, shooting and editing, while sticking to a low budget that makes it easy for him to knock off at least one film per year. He’s truly a one-man-band at this point, and Incredible But True is another good case of him marching to the beat of his own drum.