Cannes Film Festival — Certified Copy

Posted: September 20, 2010 in Danny Moltrasi, Film, Reviews
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[Reviewed by: Danny Moltrasi]

“What is original?"

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s first film made outside of his homeland, Certified Copy, gained some positive reviews from an otherwise rather uneventful 2010 Cannes Film Festival, where lead actress Juliette Binoche picked up Best Actress at the event for her performance. Mixed with French, Italian and English language throughout, and one in which director Kiraostami called his simplest film due to using professional actors and a relatively large budget for him to work with at €3.8mil, is a challenging attempt on originality, relationships and perception.

We meet an unnamed woman (Juliette Binoche) with her son in Tuscany at book signing for James Miller’s (William Shimell) new book, Certified Copy, a book about originality in life and art. The unnamed woman is clearly infatuated by James, and after organising a meeting with him, the pair go on a sightseeing tour of Tuscany. After discussions on originality in art and life (with cypress trees used as an example), things take a rather strange turn when the pair are mistaken for a married a couple in one of the local cafes. Soon the question of what we are seeing is changed, and perceptions of what the audience understand and what we are shown take the forefront. We can never be sure what is reality, what is acting between the two, and what is copied.

The ease at which Certified Copy is told gives a sense of simplicity that is in fact, is not true at all. The first twenty minutes of the film plays out as a simple rom-com kind of film, with the two leads clearly having a spark between them. However, as we delve deeper into the film and the relationship between the two leads, there are subtle hints and gestures that leave you questioning what you have just seen. There are no sudden changes, or shocking revelations, these events that alter the story just…occur. This is what is most impressive about the direction and acting of the two main leads, as you can not notice the moments when things adjust, but we know they have happened. Mirrors play an important role in this adjustment, as we are frequently shown one character in a different way while the other is talking to them. Are we being prompted by Kiraostami to see these people from different perspectives? It would seem so. At the conclusion of the film, I sat there trying to recall the moments in which these changes between the two leads happened, but I could never pinpoint exact moments, it all just seemed to flow.

There are heaps of themes and things to pick up from the film, and I am sure with repeated viewings you would gain more, but the obvious standout idea is about the importance, or rather, lack of importance of originality…or is it its importance…? This is linked throughout with the idea of perspective, one example being where James Miller uses an example of the unnamed woman’s son, who after being warned by his mother that he will die of a cold because of the rain, all he replies is “…so what?” James however states that if a philosopher were to say such a thing, it would be interpreted to be about the inevitability of death, and be held in higher esteem. We are also presented and shown discussion of copies of art, and what exactly is the difference between an original and a faked? After all, aren’t they the same thing? It raises interesting questions.

Certified Copy leaves us questioning about what we see, as relationships change in front of our very eyes. Certified Copy is a copy of many different aspects and styles of films, but a slightly distorted, misshaped one. However, i works extremely well and makes for an absorbing and interesting 100 minutes of viewing. Certified Copy is definitely worth being seen if on at a cinema near you.

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