Incredible But True

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Incredible But True
"What makes all this work is the very straightforward and matter-of-fact way in which Dupieux approaches the story." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

If you ask estate agents, every house has a unique selling point, something just sensational which buyers could not possibly accept being without. Usually it’s something like a feature window, a Aga or mature trees in the garden. In this case, however, it really is unique – so much so that the estate agent has to persuade buyers to try it out before they will accept it as the truth. Underneath this particular suburban house is a mysterious tunnel. Go through it and you jump 12 hours into the future, but you also get three days younger.

Although it’s presented as a surprise, this doesn’t really constitute a spoiler, because it’s introduced right at the start of the film. Perhaps it doesn’t seem quite so incredible given that this is a film by Quentin Dupieux – the man previously responsible for the likes of sentient tyre tale Rubber and petty criminals train a giant fly to do crimes fable Mandibles. Whilst it’s not quite as far out as those, it shows the same disregard for conventional structure. It’s a rambling tale which takes the central idea and runs with it, going in predictable and also quite peculiar directions.

As soon as you see tired looking, unflatteringly dressed buyer Marie (played by the usually glamorous Léa Drucker), you will have a pretty good idea what she’s going to use that tunnel for. Husband Alain (Alain Chabat) is so far out of accord with this that it takes him quite some time to notice the change in her appearance. What ambition he has lies elsewhere and he pays little attention to the tunnel, coming to seem markedly unusual in his ordinariness. Gradually, Marie’s changing looks are accompanied by a change in her character, and it’s hard to know if this is emerging immaturity – itself putting a strain on the couple’s relationship – or some kind of psychosis brought on by the experience of change or the tunnel use itself. After all, our folklore tells us that every such remarkable gift comes with a price.

The ensuing drama is supported by a sub-plot involving Alain’s boss Gérard (Benoit Magimel), who has now become their neighbour – very much the stuff of sitcoms – and has, rather more unusually, taken a drastic decision about a certain part of his anatomy in celebration of progress and the modern age. Dupieux contrasts Alain and Gérard’s perspectives on what it means to be a man as he contrasts the magical and technological challenges with which they are faced.

All this is watched over by another neighbour’s handsome grey and white cat. “He seems cute but he’s a real bastard,” says his owner, and it’s clear that he knows more than he’s letting on, especially when he seeks access to the tunnel himself. Cats, of course, are often perceived as having a special insight when it comes to magic, and as being able to move between worlds. They are also said to always land on their feet – until they don’t.

What makes all this work is the very straightforward and matter-of-fact way in which Dupieux approaches the story – as something remarkable, yes, but just one of those things which people take in their stride. no real investigation is ever done into the tunnel, bar a single experiment by Marie which she dismisses when it doesn’t tell her what she wants to hear. One is left wondering about all the other bizarre things which might be going on behind closed doors, and in this tale of neighbourly curiosity, showing off, gossip and polite intrusion, that’s what really seems to be the point. Dupieux’s ideas are wild but his comedy is droll. if you have enjoyed his previous work then this film, which screened at Fantasia 2022, should hit the spot.

Reviewed on: 04 Aug 2022
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A mysterious tunnel in the cellar of a new home turns lives upside down.

Director: Quentin Dupieux

Starring: Alain Chabat, Léa Drucker, Benoît Magimel, Anaïs Demoustier

Year: 2022

Runtime: 74 minutes


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