Saturday, 14 January 2012

Certified Copy

Certified Copy is a bizarre and confusing film, and yet it is for that very reason that it is also endlessly fascinating. Written and directed by Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, Certified Copy stars Juliette Binoche and William Shimell as a late-middle-age couple talking about their fifteen years of marriage as they walk the streets of a town in Italy. The only problem is that apparently they just met.

Shimell plays James Miller, a British writer who is in Italy for a book launch. Binoche plays Elle, a French shop owner who has lived in Italy for five years. Elle has a twelve-year-old son who tells her, at the beginning of the film, that she has a crush on the British writer. She leaves James her address, he comes to her shop on a Sunday afternoon and they proceed to spend the next few hours together, having this bizarre conversation. I noticed very early on that something in their behaviour toward each other was off. Soon it is clear that Kiarostami is doing something very strange with this film as James and Elle begin to talk as if they have been married for fifteen years.

We were unable to figure out what Kiarostami was up to (i.e. what was really going on). The idea that James and Elle are pretending, one way or the other, doesn’t really wash. The background theme of copies and originals (are originals more valuable than copies?) obviously has a major role, but it’s not clear how it relates to the central mystery (are James and Elle a copy of an original couple?).

Nevertheless, the dialogue is intelligent and well-written (if not as profound as it could be), the acting of Shimell and Binoche is impeccable, the cinematography is both excellent and unique (full of unusual angles and shots, including the way it focuses on one person even when others are talking in the scene) and Certified Copy is just fun to watch, so I am giving it a solid ***+. My mug is up.

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