It’s really saying something when a Frenchman has been to Japan for “an electronic” penis implant, which you can “steer,” switch to “vibrate” and even has a penis-scope function “so you can see…inside,” and it’s not even the daftest thing in your movie.
French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux, known for his dark and sometimes crazed comedies — “Rubber” was about a runaway tire with a murderous mind of its own — takes a turn toward twee with “Incredible but True,” a goof on aging, the obsessive pursuit of youth and everything the realtor doesn’t tell you.
It only manages a couple of big laughs, but its droll, judgy tone and some fun performances put it over.
Alain Chabat (“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”) and Léa Drucker of Epix TV’s “War of the Worlds” play Alain and Marie, a 50ish couple finally buying their first house. It’s a bit worn, a two story ’60s modernist pile that could use a little TLC.
But the real selling point, “the jewel of the visit,” enthuses the real estate agent (Stéphane Pezerat) is in the basement. Alain’s “We’re not basement people” doesn’t put the agent off or stop his breathless building up to this “change your life” feature in that cellar. It looks like a manhole, and serves as a conduit — to take the person who climbs down it “12 hours ahead in time.”
Fair enough. Or not. Time may be “flexible,” as Alain allows. But neither of them believes this pitch, not as first. Still, something the guy says convinces them, and the purchase is made.
Right away we see the rift coming. Marie is really into “trying this out” (in French with English subtitles). Alain, an insurance broker and a tad dull, couldn’t care less.
But the possibilities of even limited time travel, and a side benefit of that which was part of the sales pitch, make them and us wonder what the future holds.
An impromptu dinner party with his boss, Gerard (Benoît Magimel) and his younger girlfriend Jeanne (Anaïs Demoustier) makes us wonder if they’ll keep this secret. After all, “Gege” shares his “big news.” He’s the one who’s been to Japan because electronic penises are “not even legal in the EU, yet.”
What Dupieux serves up is three 50ish folks coping with aging on a sliding scale — freaking out to seeking a youthful do-over to the classic French c’est la vie take on growing older.
Gege is an intercontinental cliche — dyed hair, a middle-aged mustache, insecure about his younger lover, driving a Jag and a tad obsessed with guns. His fears and coping mechanisms are thus French, British and a little American.
Marie is treating this new piece of real estate’s “duct” as a fountain of youth and another chance at a dream or two.
And Alain is the sensible guy caught in the middle or these two and their “crises.”
“Incredible but True,” or “Incroyable mais vrai” in French, plays around with time. It’s a brisk film that folds big chunks of the narrative into montages set to the intentionally cloying synthesized baroque (Bach, etc.) music of Jan Santo.
And Dupieux makes us keenly aware of the time-suckers we all deal with in daily life. So many characters annoy, build this or that up and fail to get to the point that an alternate title might have been “Tourner autour du pot,” French for “beating around the bush.”
It’s all ever-so-slight, light on the messaging and “twee” in its comic ambitions, with the odd sight gag here and there.
What, you think he’s not going to find fun in the fact that there’s an electronic penis on the loose here?
Rating: unrated, sexual sight gags, profanity
Cast: Alain Chabat, Léa Drucker, Benoît Magimel, Anaïs Demoustier and Stéphane Pezerat
Credits: Scripted and directed by Quentin Dupieux. An Arrow release.
Running time: 1:14