"Deadpan" doesn't begin to describe the tongue-in-cheek mix of gravity and cool detachment in which "L'Iceberg's" slapstick nonsense thrives...

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“Deadpan” doesn’t begin to describe the tongue-in-cheek mix of gravity and cool detachment in which “L’Iceberg’s” slapstick nonsense thrives.

An absurd Belgian-French comedy with three directors (Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel and Bruno Romy), two of whom are also among the film’s principal players, “L’Iceberg” is a postmodern fable deeply influenced by Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati (“Traffic”). Just as both of those innovative filmmakers tended to set their on-screen alter egos on a collision course with a complicated world — Keaton’s characters straining to cope, Tati’s Monsieur Hulot cluelessly leaving chaos in his wake — the talents behind “L’Iceberg” have fun situating personal crises in unlikely places.

The story largely concerns Fiona (Gordon, whose work in this movie won the Audience Award for Best Actress at the 2006 Seattle International Film Festival), a wary, exhausted suburban mother and wife who also manages a restaurant. Locked in a walk-in freezer at work one night, she survives the experience but is haunted by it afterward.

Fiona’s well-meaning but lackluster husband, Julien (Abel), and their kids try to engage her, but her thoughts turn toward adventure — specifically a strange compulsion to head to the Arctic and the world of icebergs.

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Through a succession of imaginative tableaus rich in color and physical comedy but minimal in sound, “L’Iceberg” goes on to tell us of Fiona’s travels on the open ocean and her relationship with the seemingly mute René (Philippe Martz). When Julien shows up somehow, the film becomes an ironic metaphor for the quest to fight for and reinvent a marriage.

For all its slapstick leanings, “L’Ice-

berg” doesn’t necessarily inspire a lot of laughter, and some of its best moments are a little too self-congratulatory. A scene in which Fiona writhes around under a backlit bedsheet like something extraterrestrial trying to hatch itself into a new world makes its point about the bedeviled character’s post-trauma dreams … and then makes it again and again. But overall, “L’Iceberg” is a noteworthy effort by artists thinking outside the filmmaking box.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

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