I used to be delighted when a new Quentin Dupieux movie got announced, nowadays it is a bit more expected. Not that the quality of his work has decreased over the years, on the contrary even, it's just that Dupieux used to appear more like an implausible rebel tearing up the film industry. These days he's releasing one or more films each year. I'm not complaining mind, Incredible But True [Incroyable Mais Vrai] is vintage Dupieux, but different enough from his other films to avoid feeling too repetitive. It's precisely the kind of film I want him to keep making.
Few people had expected Quentin Dupieux to become a certainty within the (French) movie industry. While Rubber was quite the cult hit, it also looked like a one-shot success, helmed by a somewhat scatter-brained creative. It didn't stop Dupieux from pushing forward, somewhat tentatively at first, but after a few films, he really found his groove. Now he's working with pretty stellar actors, who gladly adapt to fit into his often silly, absurdist narratives. Not that Dupieux is an A-list director all of a sudden, but he created a little niche for himself, sporting a faithful audience with enough critical mass to secure funding for upcoming projects.
While it's easy to think of Dupieux as a one-trick pony (most of his films can be coined as absurd comedies), he always finds ways to differentiate his next work from what he made before. This involves mixing in other genres, he balances different styles of comedy and the level of absurdity is pretty malleable too. It makes every new film of his I watch feel fresh, but they also remain easily identifiable as Dupieux projects. I'm not sure how long he'll be able to keep this up, but for now, I'm never too worried when sitting down to see what he came up with.
Incredible But True is a film that deals with aging, and people's desperate attempts to reverse its symptoms. A couple buys a new home and finds out that their basement has a very special treat for them. A befriended couple comes over for dinner and tells them the man traded his penis for an app-driven electronic alternative. Both couples seem happy with their new toys, but things don't go quite as planned and soon enough they find that their physical and mental health is suffering from the devices that were supposed to make them feel better about themselves.
Stylistically I'm in two minds about Incredible But True. While I can't deny that Dupieux gives his films a definite visual style, the somewhat dated, often barren look his films carry isn't entirely to my liking. I think it's one of the areas Dupieux can still hone to make his films even better, on the other hand, it seems this particular style has become part of his signature. At least it gives his films character, which shouldn't be taken for granted when dealing with low-budget comedies. So while I would prefer a more modern, and an even more outspoken look, I'm not really complaining.
The same can be said about the scores of Dupieux's films, though I will say that I might be a bit less unforgiving and/or demanding there. After all, Dupieux started his career making music. The score of Incredible But True is pretty unique and peculiar, adding tons of flavor, it's just not pushing it far enough for my taste. It comes off a little too restrained and subdued, especially comparing it to the work of his Mr. Oizo moniker. I know cinema is a bit behind when it comes to music, but seeing how Dupieux doesn't mind bending the rules of the expected elsewhere, it feels like a wasted opportunity.
The performances are crucial for a film like this, it's a good thing then that Dupieux has no trouble directing his cast. You'd think he'd have a more fixed set of actors that would feature in multiple of his films, but it seems that he likes to work with a varied bunch of people, and they all seem to blend into Dupieux's peculiar universe without a hitch. Magimel is hilarious (he has a superb face for comedy), while Chabat and Drucker provide grounded counterpoints to his more physical style of comedy. I ended up being pleasantly surprised by the (for me) somewhat unknown cast, so mission accomplished.
The two plot lines are pretty simple, but Dupieux is smart to play with the structure to add a little intrigue. The build-up of the reveals is pretty much perfect, especially those moments when Dupieux explicitly messes with the audience's patience (by inserting repetitive nonsense dialogue or cutting to a different part of the story), just to postpone the climax. Some might find this a little irritating, but I like it when a director consciously screws around with his audience. It's an integral part of the comedy and it makes the film that much more fun.
Incredible But True is vintage Dupieux, while also offering something you won't quite find in his other films. It's not a film that will convince detractors of his work, but fans can rest assured they will find a film they can like or love, depending on one's personal preferences. Dupieux's absurdist comedy is on full display here, the performances are on point and while I didn't fully vibe with the styling I can't but admit that the film has its own, unique style. So far Dupieux's output has been consistently strong, so here's to hoping he can keep that up for quite some time to come.