The Criterion Collection
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The great Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami (Close-up) travels to Tuscany for a luminous and provocative romance in which nothing is as it appears. What seems at first to be a straightforward tale of two people played by Oscar-winning actress Juliette Binoche (Blue) and opera singer William Shimell getting to know each other over the course of an afternoon gradually reveals itself as something richer, stranger, and trickier: a mind-bending reflection on authenticity, in art as well as in relationships. Both cerebrally and emotionally engaging, Certified Copy (Copie conforme) reminds us that love itself is an enigma.
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As the film progresses, Elle and James enter into increasing levels of intimacy, surprising the audience over and over. Of course most of us have been on this ride from meeting with attractive stranger to entangled attachment, to the frustration of expecting others to fulfill our wishes, to the suffering and arguments and finally to some measure of detachment. In the ride Kiarostami takes us on, we get to watch the process from the observer standpoint. We get to observe the ways that masculine and feminine magnetize; attract and then repel.
There is a wealth of symbolism here, from the statuary in Elle's antiques shop, to telephone conversations, to weddings and costume jewelry earrings and, indeed, a certified copy. I published a symbolic review of this film in my e book Poetry in Motion: 19 Symbolic Reviews of Transformational Film, here on Amazon (software for linking is not working right now).
Looking forward to watch more films of the master.
An author on tour to promote his book has an apparently chance meeting with a French woman (Juliette Binoche), and their encounter proves to be something far more than casual. He proposes in his book that a copy, an imitation, is as good as the genuine article, and while he appears to confine his thesis to works of art, what follows suggests that she may be testing to see how far it extends to life itself. The latest film by celebrated Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami is also his first to be filmed outside of his native country. Starring Juliette Binoche (who took home the best actress award at Cannes for her stunningly enigmatic performance in this film), Certified Copy starts from a premise that promises an exotic love story, and gradually turns into a subtle and profound meditation on art, memory, truth, and identity.
To give a quick sense of the feel of this remarkable film I might suggest it combines the conversational intimacy of Before Sunset and the intellectual intrigue of Last Year at Marienbad. The problem is that comparison makes this seem like a derivative work, that merely copies elements of established works. It's not. Like all of the works I've seen by Abbas Kiarostami, this is a true original. Or if its a copy, it's a genuine copy. It's a fascinating film, that I've seen twice now, and that I look forward to watching again, since I got even more from it the second time. It's a densely layered film, where details refer to other details, and each calls up a range of themes and ideas, but where the intellectual intrigue is balanced by an emotional tension and resonance, and that wears its layers lightly, almost as if it were all improvised. It's both a delightful romance - that might be said to skip the romance, straight to the after of the happily ever after - and a subtle philosophical exploration of a wide range of fascinating themes.
By the way, here's what to expect when the Criterion edition ships:
-a new high-definition digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
-a new interview with director Abbas Kiarostami
-"Let's See Copia conforme," an Italian documentary on the making of Certified Copy, featuring interviews with Kiarostami and actors Juliette Binoche and William Shimell
-New English subtitle translation
-PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Godfrey Cheshire