Certified Copy (Copie Conforme) Reviews
"Certified Copy" has a number of intriguing elements, but I don't think too many would consider it a major work of art. It was accepted into competition at Cannes in 2010, but it lost (thank goodness) to the near-masterpiece "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives."
Juliette Binoche did win Best Actress that year for her work in the film. But I think the Cannes Jury, led by Tim Burton incidentally, was overly generous to her. She's a great actress, but her work in "Certified Copy" was not particularly significant in my view.
Binoche plays a French art dealer living in Italy. Her specialty is copies of major works of art, particularly statuary. An English art scholar is visiting her small town in Tuscany on a book tour to promote the Italian translation of his new work "Certified Copy," which critically examines the concept of originality.
She volunteers to take him on a driving tour of the area, and the film chronicles their day trip. It is actually filmed in Italy, Kiarostami's first time filming outside Iran I'm told.
In a highly unusual bit of casting, the art scholar is played not by a professional actor, but by a famous opera singer, William Shimmel. From what I've read, Kiarostami is quite the polymath, having expertise not just in cinema, but also in painting, photography, poetry, and even graphic design. He's a true Renaissance man. His casting of an opera singer embodies that broad interest in the arts, I would say. He seems to see cinema not as standing alone, but as part of a tapestry of modern arts.
The film itself also has that polymath quality. Everywhere you go in "Certified Copy" there's some kind of art, especially painting and sculpture. But even clothes, jewelry and wine are approached artistically. Philosophy is also everywhere.
In the first 20 minutes, it seems that the film is going to be a fairly straightforward talk-fest about art and philosophy. But then something quite bizarre happens. The protagonists slowly become different characters. This happens so subtly and gradually, that you don't entirely know when they change. Suddenly I realized they were not strangers, but a married couple celebrating their 15th anniversary.
I was so disconcerted and intrigued that I had to go back and watch for the first signs of this change. This was fun, and I liked the mind-bending quality. The problem is that I didn't think this avant-garde technique really meant that much ultimately. It certainly is unusual, but what does it say? It conveys the fluidity of identity and the illusion of the self, but this has been done many times before -- far more trenchantly in "Uncle Boonmee" in fact.
It also brings into sharper focus the nature of cinema as a copy of life. There's also a refracting quality, exploring how even in "real life" we often feel like we're imitating something or someone -- sometimes imitating cinema! But this has also been done before and in far more exciting ways. (Jean-Luc Godard, anyone? Ingmar Bergman's "Persona"?)
There's a flat look to "Certified Copy" most often, which is rather uninspiring. The cinematography I have to say is quite pedestrian most of the time. Very often the film looks as plain as a TV movie. It takes a lot of work to make Tuscany look plain, but somehow Kiarostami succeeds!
So it's a mixed bag with "Certified Copy." Some interesting ideas are explored, but not in a way that's very inspiring or even original. Pardon the pun.
Two brilliant central performances and existential, intellectual questions aplenty! The film works on a very meta level, and by the end of it, I can't believe their relationship, or *what* their relationship was, was even up for debate.
Clearly my perceptions changed well enough based on what looked like a certified, failed marriage to me, but who knows what someone else might have seen?
Starring: Juliette Binoche and William Shimell.
Question: Do you ever find it hard not to relate to or be affected by a film? I do, all the time.
Some make me laugh and I will randomly giggle when thinking about certain moments of the story. Some make me cry and I will shed a tear if I allow any memories in. And then some freak me out that I will have to sleep with the light on if recall any of the scary parts. Then there are the ones where you watch a couple of actors converse in what first appears nonsensical or of little importance, but a switch is flipped in your consciousness, and you soon realize that everything they are saying has a profound point. That is Certified Copy. Once the switch flipped for me, my heart just sank. This one ended up tossing me about that I know this one will be with me for the long haul.
I was in the mood to watch a movie but a really good one. Fortunately, Netflix has categories based on what you have watched and then list others they feel you may enjoy. Under the "Critically-acclaimed" list I found Certified Copy. Actually I already had it in my instant play queue when I went looking a few days ago in the "New Arrivals" list, but my queue is REALLY long, and sometimes I find it difficult to decide what to watch and review next. However, Netflix had One Flew of the Cuckoo's Nest, Young Frankenstein, Reservoir Dogs and Apocalypse Now, 4 of my all time favorite movies, on the "Critically-acclaimed" list so I immediately hit play without knowing anything about it.
Well, that's not entirely true. I knew Juliette Binoche starred in it and that it was a story about love and art. Plus it was set in Tuscany. I adore Italy, worship art and I wish I could be as alluring as Juliette Binoche. So I was content when I started the film, but I didn't stay that way long.
The opening of Certified Copy started off with no music, views of people or even a panoramic shot of Italy. The camera focused on a large stone mantel with a table and a couple of microphones on it. Then all you hear are people talking slightly above a whisper. It was a little disconcerting as this went on for a few minutes. I was waiting for something - a person to pop into screen, the camera to move or a change of scenery. But nothing for a few more minutes. Finally, a person came into view speaking Italian (there were sub-titles) to announce that the writer is running late for the lecture. I relaxed again as the story moved forward.
The writer finally arrived - a handsome middle-aged British man - and he begins to speak about his book, "Certified Copy", which is about reproductions of original pieces of art and his theory that all copies are just as authentic as the the original objects. He also claims the originals are also reproductions themselves. Soon a beautiful middle-aged woman walks into the lecture hall. She seems intrigued with the writer. No more detail - that is enough for now.
The discussion of his theory is transported forward for nearly 30 more minutes when the two people meet up. At this point I was uncertain where the story was heading but it kept my interest. However, there was some strange or odd behavior by both parties that I couldn't quite figure out. The story went in and out of a foreign language: Italian or French - all with sub-titles but half of the movie was in English. For those who don't like subtitles this one wasn't bad - although I had to rewind a few moments to make sure I knew what they said. However, it wasn't so much for my slow reading ability but something I believe the film-maker was trying to "trick" us with. (So pay close attention.) Immediately trompe l'oeil or "trick of the eye" popped in my head when I finally realized what was going on in Certified Copy. Brilliant!
Now you know I am not going to tell you any more about the story, but I will say Juliette Binoche was mesmerizing as her role of the middle-aged woman trying to converse with this "stranger". There were moments of pure tenderness and then there were times of utter sorrow that only a select few people, I believe, could relate to in this story. Are you one of them? You will just have to find out.
Certified Copy is an original story and one that I believe not many will enjoy. You must have patience and an understanding that this tale doesn't take a typical path. Plus, as in real-life, there aren't answers to everything and there aren't always cathartic moments that allow you to let go of the story once it is over. Many use films to escape the drudgery of their world, but some films draw you right back into the things you fear or sadden you the most. So if you are looking for an uplifting, overly romantic love story - I suggest you watch something else. However, if you want to be surprised, witness a real relationship between two people and decide for yourself how it ended - then Certified Copy is your movie.
My favorite thing: When I realized what I was really watching.
My least favorite thing: Not gonna say.
Length: 106 minutes
Review: 9 out of 10
Juliette Binoche plays a woman only known as "she" (as revealed by the credits) who is moderately infatuated with a man named James Miller who has written a book titled "Certified Copy" which examines the importance of copies and forged artworks and how the fake artworks can bring viewers of art closer to the originals (even though it isn't real)... thus begins our film.
The unnamed main character (she), invites the author to see her personal antique collection, and from that point they spend the entire day together. Their day begins simply by talking about art as they drive through the streets of Italy, but when they stop at a coffee shop and the elderly lady serving the coffee mistakes them for being a married couple Juliette Binoche's character decides to play along. For the rest of the day, she and James spend the whole day pretending to be a married couple traveling through Italy for their 15th wedding anniversary.
The script of "Certified Copy" is not perfect, but it is the small coincidences and random background noises or images that really help the theme of this film breathe. Wedding bells are heard from chapels constantly, and newly weds still in suits and white dresses are seen in several scenes parading the streets and having their pictures taken. (Having the main character unnamed also implies a sense of submission to one' husband as found in wedding vows and the culture that the director is from.)
Where this film could have fallen apart, is just when the story picks up. At times, their pretending and references to events that both of them know never happened (example: their wedding day) cross a line of unbelievability as we, as an audience, have to cross the hurtle that both characters are choosing to pretend their married without ever acknowledging that they are pretending.
That's where the theme of the film shines at its a best. It does't matter that they weren't really married, as it helped them see their own flaws and gain a greater understanding of love and marriage (just as a forged painting can give a viewer the same knowledge as the real painting).
This movie isn't for everyone, but it is a beautiful look at the occasionally ugly side of love and the things that love can make people do for others.