French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux is no stranger to exploring the oddities of humanity through incredibly bizarre scenarios. In 2020, I reviewed Deerskin, a comedy/horror about a man who purchases a killer jacket (read ‘killer’ how you wish, because they way you perceived it is correct). Deerskin was a film that I had a lot of appreciation for due to Dupieux’s ability to commit to the insanity without it feeling overtly stupid, but also touch on the themes of obsession and vanity. Once again, Dupieux has weaved the theme of obsession, vanity, and now in his latest comedy, Incredible but True, the ever alluring fear and construct of time.
Alain (Alain Chabat) and Marie (Lea Drucker) are an ageing couple who finally decide to buy their first home. Upon meeting with a real estate agent at the prospective home of the dreams, he informs (and warns) them of a manhole in the basement that possesses a strange power. If you climb down the manhole in the basement, you will end up back in your living room, even though the living room is above the manhole. On top of that, you will travel forward in time 12 hours, no matter how long it takes you to climb down the manhole. And once you have completed the descent, you will reverse in age by 3 days.
Initially unable to comprehend the news of the time-travelling manhole in their basement, Alain and Marie still decide to purchase the home, but when curiosity strikes Marie one night, an obsession with reclaiming her youth takes a strong hold over her, leading to a frequent pursuit of beauty by using the manhole every day. At first, Alain does not seem to take issue with it, because he’s having issues at work with a difficult client and his boss’ desire to keep reminding Alain that he recently got an electronic penis that can be controlled by his phone. But, as Marie’s obsession grows stronger and stronger, the effect on their marriage becomes more apparent.
Clocking in at a tight 74 minutes, Incredible but True, wastes no time getting straight into the thick of it, with its opening act serving as a non-linear narrative, beginning with a scene later in the film, spliced with Alain and Marie looking at their new home. The intrigue is immediately felt as to what the hell is going to happen in this film, and Dupieux’s signature style of dry comedy is on full display with awkward encounters and dialogue between the characters. The short runtime works well in the case of removing any fodder or unnecessary scenes to slow the film down. It’s a simple story, covering a simple theme, but all the information required to understand the premise and characters is given to make it an enjoyable experience, if you let yourself be consumed by the absurdity.
Where the film does slightly falter is in its final act. Dupieux begins to wrap up the story with a compilation of scenes, with whimsical music over the top, covering many years of what we have witnessed: Marie using the manhole, Alain living his life alone, and Alain’s boss obsessing over his electronic penis. Although these are all elements that have been explored in the film beforehand, without adding anything overly new, it feels almost like a cop out way to end the film.
Incredible but True is a dry and hilarious, self-contained comedy that can be a lot of fun if you let it’s absurd premise run free without too much thought. And while the ending ties it’s themes of obsession and vanity together well, it does feel slightly rushed and disappointing
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