Friday, March 18, 2011


Written & Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

Where & When: Laemmle's Pasadena Playhouse, Pasadena, CA  March 15, 2011  4:10PM

"Certified Copy" is probably one of the most strangest, confusing and unconventional love stories I have ever seen. I'm not sure what to make of this film but I have to say that I found it completely engaging..

James Miller (William Shimell), a British art historian, is speaking to an audience in Tuscany about his new book about how a copy of an art piece is just as important as the original work. Elie (Juliette Binoche), a French antique art dealer living in Italy, is a fan of the book. She is attending the lecture but is unable to stay because she has to go and feed her teenage son (Adrian Moore).

Elie invites James to come to her shop later so she can further discuss his theory but he doesn't want to stay indoors. He wants to go out and see the city, so Ellie drives James to a part that she thinks he might want to see, where they proceed to talk, and talk. However, we assume that they have only just met but through their discussion, we are not sure whether they are an estranged couple pretending to have just met or they are truly strangers pretending to have had this long relationship.

It's not a spoiler to say that we do not find out the actual status of this couple but that isn't what the film is about. It's about discovering the emotional journey of these two people, as we watch them argue, tease, seduce, and aggravate each other and it doesn't seem important whether it's an authentic or just an imaginary relationship. "Certified Copy" makes me think of the terrific 1995 film, "Before Sunrise" where a young couple meet in Vienna and spend the entire day (and the movie) just talking and getting to know each other. While nothing but conversation worked very well for that film, but in "Certified Copy", I found that it was intriguing to a degree but because it is not clear what is the true nature of their relationship, it made frustratingly difficult to completely connect with these two people.

Mr. Kiarostami, the acclaimed veteran director of over forty films and this is his first film outside of Iran, feels no particular need to explain and would much prefer to let the audience interpret from the characters' conversations, actions and the visual cues to what is actually true.

Mr. Shimell. who took a break from his day job as a celebrated opera singer, makes his film debut and he delivers an authoritative performance. He and Ms Binoche have a warm, easy-going rapport that is quite enjoyable to watch.

As for Juliette Binoche, she is the main reason to see "Certified Copy". She is one of my all-time favorite actresses and I think Ms Binoche is among the best currently working in the world today and in this film, she is transcendent. She not only impressively speaks French, Italian and English competently but that luminous, expressive face conveys the many thoughts and feelings her character is going through that words could never properly explain. She won a well deserved Best Actress Award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival for her role.

If you prefer your cinema easily digestible, then "Certified Copy" is definitely not for you but if you enjoy  seeing films that can be challenging and thought provoking, then you might want to check this out.