Another deceptively calm, straight-faced, compact essay in bizarre genre picture from writer-director Quentis Dupieux (Rubber, Deerskin, Mandibles). If you’ve been following his work, you’ll know what to expect – it’s at once unique and peculiarly comforting.
Laid-back Alain Duval (Alain Chabat) and his wife Marie (Léa Drucker) tour a large house in the suburbs they’re thinking of buying – the estate agent (Stéphane Pezerat) thinks they’ll be particularly excited by a unique feature he can’t bring himself to explain (this film has many scenes of people being comically unable to come straight out and say something) but feels compelled to demonstrate. In the basement (‘we’re not basement people,’ Alain insists) is a wooden hatch over a duct – climbing down into the hole leads by some Moebius wormhole back into the house, but twelve hours into the future … with a weird side effect that anyone who takes this trip becomes three days younger. They buy the house. Alain shrugs off the incredible (but true) time-travel duct the way he does an abandoned, rusting luxury car left in the garden, but Marie becomes obsessed with using it so much she becomes young enough to have a career as a model … though there’s an ominous warning when a bruised apple sent through the duct comes out with perfect skin but rotten insides swarming with ants.
Alain’s boss Gérard (Benoît Magimel) is also going to some lengths to retain his youth – after the now-familiar conversational runaround, he reveals that he’s had a Japanese electronic penis fitted … which can be piloted from a phone, but still doesn’t seem to have put his sex life on an even keel – his girlfriend Jeanne (Anaïs Demoustier) propositions Alain – and then has all manner of broadly comic complications. As this wry, understated farcical stuff goes on, Alain and Marie drift apart, separated by the years Marie eventually puts between them (Roxane Arnal takes over the role) and differing attitudes to the passing of time and the ageing process. With Switched-On Bach on the soundtrack, Dupieux shifts from his usual mode – elliptical drawing room conversations, washed-out minimalist visuals – into a climactic montage that rushes through reams of story in a satisfying, affecting manner. The moral is ancient, but Dupieux is refreshingly non-judgemental about the characters who get in pickles by chasing lost youth – even when the ants come back – and there’s a genuinely sweet, affecting coda.