Certified Copy is a difficult film for me to review without giving away spoilers. I’m not a fan of art house movies and would never give much time for them normally, but this film was satisfyingly good. Director Kiarostami clearly has a phenomenal eye and technique and I’ve read this is his most commercial film made, in fact it received boo’s at Cannes from fans believing he’s sold out. I don’t care too much about that if it means this film is to be seen by more than the regular Art house movie goers as it deserves it.
New to acting, opera singer William Shimell stars as British author James Miller who arrives in Tuscany to talk about his new book where he questions the notion of authenticity in art and whether reproductions or copies can be just as artistically valid as the original they are mimicking. Attending the talk is an unnamed character played by Juliette Binoche, she clearly has an infatuation with him and invites him to her antiques shop. She offers to drive him to the stunning town of Lucignano where they chat, flirt and challenge each others views gradually building a bond that can surely only lead to a romance in the beautiful city, but nothing is quite what it seems. It’s when they are mistaken for a married couple that things take the first turn away from the conventional, they seem to play along with the misconception and they begin to act as a real couple and the distortion of if they really are grows as we seem to follow stages of their relationship from happy, to bitter, to sadness.
The genius of the film is the whole concept of the term ‘certified copies’ that flows subtlety through the entire film, starting with actual art pieces and the merit of fakes and then the relationship asking you to decide on what is real and what is not. There are scenes of perspective perception to show one thing but actually means another. For example when a man appears to be shouting at his wife but in a move of the camera he is talking on his hands free, it’s a comical look at what is real and what is not. Casting a complete unknown and a new male lead alongside the experienced and excellent Juliette Binoche is a further example of a certified copy.
William Shimell more than holds his own against the talent of Binoche and their entirely convincing relationship changes just add to the notion of real or fake. Also the use of languages in the film further added to the theme, three in total with English, French and Italian being used throughout at different points. It all works wonderfully well.
Juliette Binoche is just brilliant in Certified Copy, fully deserving the Best Actress award at Cannes this year. She puts in an incredible performance going through almost every emotional acting range that emphasizes the change in the couples relationship throughout the film, and works so well. The thing that really caught my eye though was the wonderful direction with wonderful use of mirrors and reflections (another use of the certified copy subtext) that showed scenes playing out off camera like a glorious five minute scene of the couple driving the streets of Tuscany with the camera directed straight at them but the reflection of the windshield shows the wonderful narrow streets passing by drawing your eyes away from the actors.
Overall I wouldn’t say I loved it, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed seeing something different from Hollywood blockbusters and something really creative. The film will not appeal to everyone. It leaves a lot unanswered and crawls along at a slow pace making it an acquired taste, but if you fancy trying something that borders Art House cinema this will no doubt be a good introduction to it.
Certified Copy is out 3rd September.