Incredible But True
Quirky, deadpan humor, an absurdist eye for French social etiquette and a keen sense of the folly of existence are among the hallmarks of the oddball comedies of director Quentin Dupieux (Rubber, Deerskin, Smoking Causes Coughing), and Incredible But True is no different.
Alain (Alain Chabat, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) and Marie (Léa Drucker, War of the Worlds) are a middle-aged bourgeois couple who move to their new house in a quiet suburb. A key feature of their new abode that the estate agent points out to them is a mysterious tunnel in the basement. Little do they realise that it will turn their lives upside down...
Shot during the pandemic under quarantine conditions, Incredible But True is an inventive and nimble tale that perfectly showcases the singular and eccentric vision that has made Dupieux the most exciting director working in France today.
Arrow Video presents Quentin Dupieux’s recent film Incredible But True on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc. The specifications indicate that the film’s aspect ratio is 2.35:1 but the image is in fact presented here in the ratio 1.78:1; I’m not sure if this simply a printing error on Arrow's part or if they were supplied with a master in the wrong ratio (as a note, IMDB lists the film as 2.35:1 as well). It is presented here through a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode.
The film appears to have been shot in high-definition and I must assume this presentation comes directly from that digital source. On the whole it’s a fine enough looking image, sharp and detailed when it comes to the focal points of the image, detail levels looking good if not particularly remarkable. Long shots, on the other hand, have an odd-looking distortion around the edges of the frame in most instances, more than likely due to those areas being out-of-focus. That's all well-and-good but it looks incredibly odd, almost like some blending effect was applied with trees in the background looking unusually smudgy.
Even if that odd little artifact can stick out here and there it’s not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things and is almost certainly baked into the original digital photography, a byproduct of the lens used and how the digital camera is interpreting the data. Yet one aspect that can get a bit more distracting is the noise level in darker scenes. There are several darker interior shots scattered about the film (the central premise involves a strange duct in the dark basement of a house) and it’s these scenes that can get especially noisy with that noise level varying based on the light available in the scene. As distracting as it can be this is also clearly baked into the digital photography, not an artifact of the encode. Black levels can also be a bit mushy at times, and shadow detail can be very limited, which leads to a flat looking picture. Colours look decent, though rarely pop.
The disc ultimately presents the film as best it can, the original photography and the digital source simply being limited in a few areas. It looks perfectly fine for what it is but nothing special sticks out about it.
Update, November 8th, 2022: The disc is in the incorrect aspect ratio after all! Arrow has announced that they have delayed the disc until December 6th to correct the film's aspect ratio to 2.35:1. Judging by images I have seen, it appears this 1.78:1 presentation cuts off the left and right ends of the frame.
The film comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround soundtrack. Much like the image it’s serviceable but I can’t say the mix is all that impressive. To be fair, the film is more dependent on its dialogue and it really doesn’t call for that creative of a mix. Activity is primarily centralized to the fronts with some ambient activity working its way to the rears, and it all sounds crisp and clean with excellent range.
The film was released this past year and one Arrow picked up for theatrical and home video distribution (in North America and the UK I believe) so as expected the features aren’t particularly probing yet they are still a slight bit better than most big-studio releases. There is a short 17-minute segment featuring excerpts from interviews with Dupieux and actors Alain Chabat and Benoît Magimel, which appear to have been conducted at a press junket. Though I wouldn’t say the comments are terribly insightful Dupieux at the very least talks about his style of filmmaking and how he works his stories around the characters he has created. He also rather enjoys getting his audience to accept “absolute nonsense” by taking the absurd and somehow making it seem just real enough, as this film clearly aims to do with its presence of a time-bending duct and a certain mechanical appendage. The two actors then talk about the appeal of being in one of Dupieux’s films.
Not bad but in a nice touch for anyone not familiar with the filmmaker (I’m only vaguely familiar admittedly) Arrow has seen fit to also include a new appreciation around him and his work through a new interview with film critic Elena Lazic. For this 29-minute segment she runs through Dupieux’s early music and film work, giving focus to Rubber, Deerskin, and Mandibles. She explains his style and the absurd nature of his films while also getting into the meta elements and the themes he likes to explore (I should warn there are slight spoilers). She then explains how his same interests found in those films carry over into this one (which she says was clearly impacted and influenced by the pandemic) and also points out how it differs on a technical level. Since I am only vaguely familiar with Dupieux’s work I found this extra very beneficial, and it’s much meatier than I would have expected.
The disc then closes with three trailers, each of which run under a minute. They don’t do much in revealing the plot, though I was amused how the one trailer reworks the scene around a dinner reveal.
The booklet (limited to the first pressing, along with an O-card) then includes an essay by Anton Bitel, who expands on Lazic’s contribution with more of a focus on this film. Bitel’s essay is then followed by a reprint of a cast interview featuring Chabat, Magimel, Anaïs Demoustier and Léa Drucker.
Ultimately slim, which isn’t too much of a surprise, but the content is at least worth looking through.
The film is referred to as a “pandemic film” through the couple features we do get, and that feeling does carry on through to the release as well due to it feeling a bit slight. The A/V presentation is about as good as it can be due to the source, and the extras have a rushed feel.