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CERTIFIED COPY (COPIE CONFORME) (director/writer: Abbas Kiarostami; screenwriter: Massoumeh Lahidji; cinematographer: Luca Bigazzi; editor: Bahman Kiarostami; cast: Juliette Binoche (She), William Shimell (James Miller), Jean-Claude Carrière (the Man at the Square), Agathe Natanson (the Woman at the Square), Gianna Giachetti (the Cafe Owner), Adrian Moore (the Son), Angelo Barbagallo (the Interpreter), Andrea Laurenzi (the Guide), Filippo Troiano (the Bridegroom), Manuela Balsimelli (the Bride); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Marin Karmitz/Nathanaël Karmitz/Charles Gillibert/Angelo Barbagallo; MK2 Edition; 2010-France/Italy Belgium-in Italian, French and English, with English subtitles)
“A captivating arthouse pic that explores how the truth, like art, is always open to interpretation.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Acclaimed Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami (“Taste of Cherry”/”Close-Up”/”The Wind Will Carry Us”) helmshis first narrative feature outside of Iran. It’s a captivating arthouse pic that explores how the truth, like art, is always open to interpretation. It’s a cerebral pic that points out that a work of art being original or a reproduction makes no difference, claiming if both are well-crafted and give one enjoyment (which should be the true point of life) then it should not matter if it’s a copy. It goes on to compare originality with birth by provocatively saying we are DNA replicas of our ancestors, so who can really say if anything is original. It then turns into a playful relationship film, where an unexpected romance blossoms as the featured couple blur the lines between reality and imagination when they spend a sunny day together and turn from strangers to an argumentative couple who might have had a prior relationship.

James Miller (William Shimell, English opera baritone, in his first acting role) is an erudite, arrogant and aloof English author in Tuscany to promote his latest polemic art book, Certified Copy, that champions the opinion that a good copy is just as good as a so-called original. At the university lecture he gives is the French owner (Juliette Binoche) of an antiques gallery, dealing in replicas, in the host city of Arezzo. Though the single mom leaves after Jim’s opening remarks to take her starved precocious 10-year-old son (Adrian Moore) out to eat, she returns to show the author her gallery, get him to autograph the six books she bought and take him in her convertible to visit a nearby picture-book hill town, Lucignano, a popular wedding spot for couples and where the beautiful medieval town also holds a provincial museum that houses a portrait painting that for centuries was thought to be original but fifty years ago it was discovered where the original was located and that the much admired art work was a copy done by a forger from Naples some two hundred years ago.

Their time together is short, as Jim must be back by nine that evening to catch a train to continue on his book tour.

The testy Jim’s not impressed that his art theory is so easily proven, saying that happens all the time and is no great surprise. The two retreat to a nearby cafe, where they argue about marriage as a receptacle of illusions that will become evident if it fails to meet one’s sweet expectations of a happy life. The woman cafe proprietor (Gianna Giachetti) takes them for a bickering married couple and she, whose name is never mentioned, doesn’t dispute that. The two strangers now role-play that they’ve been married for the last fifteen years and that he’s a workaholic more interested in his work than in his family. It can no longer be ascertained with certainty what’s real and what’s a put on, as the couple get intense about their supposed relationship and start seriously talking as if they are really married and furthermore she’s trying to hold his attention by dolling up for him.

It plays out as a talky conversation piece that’s weirdly entertaining and boldly funny (a pic that could easily be thought of as a copy of European art films of the 1950s). Though it might not be an original film, it’s a surprisingly snappy imitation that could be certified as original and be thought of as devilishly modern (note all the cell phones put into play).

If you don’t care for its suppositions about art, you can always admire the film as an excellent acting exercise (Binoche won the Best Actress Award at Cannes, and carries the film with her convincing nervous energy performance as a flawed but lovable humanistic individual), its beautiful location scenery (cypress trees along the country road are compared to great painting and mirrors are popping up everywhere to make us see things as reflections), the spontaneous diverting conversations that promotes intelligent responses and its elegance. It’s a Before Sunset relationship type of film for adults, especially for those viewers who admire conversations where the participants can freely and articulately express their feelings and still can be open-minded about searching for more answers while convinced they are right (Jim reluctantly admits, ‘I only wrote the book to convince myself of my own ideas’).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”