Incredible But True review – screwball metaphysics on the property market

Berlin film festival 2022

Giddy comedy about middle-aged house hunters who find more in a bargain buy than anyone but director Quentin Dupieux could have dreamed

Those who have seen Quentin Dupieux’s strange comedy Deerskin, with Jean Dujardin as a murderous would-be cinéaste obsessed with the sartorial superiority of his fringed deerskin jacket, or any of the film-maker’s other wacky adventures, will have an idea what to expect of this latest romp. They may also be justifiably unsure whether to find his movies irresistible or insufferable. I am still undecided in some ways. Incredible But True has a wacky premise that Dupieux very possibly had no idea how to develop. And yet I found myself laughing quite a lot of the time. The sheer silliness and zen pointlessness is entertaining. It’s a film with something of Charlie Kaufman or Spike Jonze or early Woody Allen, mixed with a French version of the Carry Ons.

Alain Chabat and Léa Drucker play Alain and Marie, a couple of middle-aged house-hunters being shown a shabby place in the suburbs. The estate agent perplexes the pair by excitedly showing them the house’s special feature: a hole in the basement that, through an interesting Escher-style quirk, leads down into the upstairs bedroom. You wind up higher than you were before. And not only that: the hole in the basement has a second, sensational magic power that astonishes them. The house is a metaphysical wonder at an affordable price. They buy it and Marie becomes obsessed with their house’s “duct”. Meanwhile, the couple’s near-neighbour, who is also Alain’s boss, has a problem: Gégé (Benoît Magimel) has had an electronic penis installed using untested Japanese technology and it is far from trouble-free.

The funny-but-exasperating quality of the film is typified by the way that Dupieux leaves so many of the implications untested and unexplored. What happens if you go the wrong way through the tunnel? A Hollywood director might be concerned to hammer out these ideas. Not Dupieux. He just blithely swings on to the next daft gag. New things happen and ridiculous developments briskly unfold in cheerfully preposterous montages.

Is this an absurdist meditation on the cruelties of ageing? A Buñuelian satire on the world of bourgeois property ownership? Or just a shaggy dog story? (A dog features actually, and also a cat.) Somehow this film contrives to be more watchable than many of the grander offerings at Berlin, from bigger names.

• Incredible But True screened at the Berlin film festival.

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