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The Independent Critic

Juliette Binoche, William Shimell
Abbas Kiarostami
106 Mins.
IFC Films
SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Making Of, Scene Access, Trailer(s)

 "Certified Copy" Review 
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Written and directed by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, Certified Copy is the filmmaker's first film made outside of Iran seems rather unusual for a Kiarostami film. Kiarostami's films, perhaps owing as much to his setting and his politics as anything else, are universally themed, grand scaled productions even when they are being remarkably intimate. At its very essence, Certified Copy is a romantic comedy with depth that must be looked for and meaning that must be contemplated.

In other words, this is how an intelligent writer creates a cinematic romantic comedy.

Juliette Binoche was named Best Actress at Cannes for her performance here, a performance so naturally light and lived in that should you give the film a chance you may never be able to view romantic comedy in the same way again. While the film itself is at times indecisive and non-committal, Binoche is extraordinarily luminous and hypnotic as a woman we come to know simply by presentation if not so much by name. She plays an antique dealer who attends a lecture by art historian James Miller (William Shimell, a highly acclaimed British opera singer), eventually inviting him to her shop with a motive that is thinly revealed.

Most easily, but perhaps lazily, compared to Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise for American audiences, Certified Copy reveals a more relaxed Kiarostami. At 70, Kiarostami has well earned the right to relax and this film finds himself exploring relationships in a way that will most likely jolt his usual fans due to its more casual nature. There is unquestionably more going on here than one might expect, and the true foundation of the relationship between Miller and Binoche's enchanting antique dealer is forever danced around in a way that is frustrating yet allows one to draw one's own conclusions.

Have they truly just met and immediately immersed themselves in one another's presence? Are they, perhaps, truly married as one scene not so casually implies? Is there an attraction that has faded, returned and faded again? Kiarostami never truly commits to any answer but instead creates endlessly appealing characters who command your attention lest you miss a clue, a tip, a word, a thought.

The film's title, perhaps, gives something away as does Miller's expertise in having just written an acclaimed book examining authenticity and its role within art. Perhaps, then, Certified Copy is about moments, people, relationships and perceptions that either are or are not original or authentic or even real. Can we fully appreciate something that is not the "original," but simply a reasonable facsimile? Why do I have on my very wall in front of me a copy of Van Gogh's "Starry Night?" Is it as beautiful and real for me as an original Van Gogh? Or is it less? A compromise?

Binoche is simply extraordinary here, and William Shimell captivates the screen with a subdued arrogance befitting his strong opinions and even stronger narcissistic streak. Set in Tuscany, Certified Copy benefits greatly from Luca Bigazzi's masterfully balanced camera work and Kiarostami's long-standing ability to frame a shot in such a way that one is reminded that even in the most intimate of settings there is a world that goes on around us.

While Certified Copy is slightly less satisfying than the majority of Kiarostami's works, at his worst Kiarostami remains a captivating and involving filmmaker whose films you remember long after the closing credits.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic