Author Topic: Certified Copy  (Read 7665 times)

Scotty P.

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Certified Copy
« on: April 28, 2011, 03:06:48 PM »
“You play the loving woman, I play the faithful man…”
--Bruce Springsteen, “Brilliant Disguise”

 “There's nothing more cinematic than the sight of a man and a woman talking at 3 a.m. in the dark night of the soul.”
--attributed to Andrew Sarris

This is the first film this year that I’ve had to go back and see a second time at the theater.  It’s Abbas Kiarostami’s first feature made outside of Iran, and he’s got something really fascinating here, something of tremendous emotional power.  It felt very personal to me, as though I were watching the stages of my own failed marriage reflected in the single afternoon that two people spend walking around a little Tuscan village, seeming to morph from strangers into an old married couple before our eyes.

An Englishman named James (William Shimell) has come to Arezzo, Tuscany to talk about his controversial new book, which argues that a good copy of a painting or a sculpture is no less a “real” work of art than the original, if it gives just as much pleasure (and he believes that pleasure is the point of life).  He strikes me as a wise man, wearing lightly his wealth of interesting ideas about art and life.  He meets a Frenchwoman (Binoche), the proprietor of a local shop full of artifacts, sculpture and the like.  She had briefly attended his lecture, and while she bought multiple copies of his book, she makes it clear that his thesis annoys her.  Nonetheless, she is thrilled (and nervous) to be hosting him.

She drives him out to see a little town called Luciagno.  They stop for a cup of coffee.  Now, for some time their conversation has carried overtones which seem just slightly off for banter amongst strangers.  As James steps out to take a call, their elderly hostess strikes up an amusing discussion with Binoche about her “husband.”  Binoche rolls with it, and when her conversation with James resumes we watch, disoriented, as they take on the roles of a married couple who’ve just marked their 15th anniversary, fighting like only people do for whom love itself is at stake.  Are they role-playing?  Part of our disorientation comes from just how intense Binoche is.  No way is she playing a game.  It’s too “real”.  (But of course this is itself just an illusion created by a brilliant actress.)

To what extent do a couple play roles with each other?  James, hungry and fed up with the contentious Binoche, gives himself over to a snit at a trattoria.  The first time I saw it I found that scene curious.  It seems to be the only time in the picture when Shimell (in real life an opera baritone), so natural throughout the rest of the picture, seemed visibly to be acting (that is to say, role-playing).  Seeing it again, it occurred to me that perhaps Kiarostami gave him that direction, as a way to keep the audience guessing.  In any case, I saw myself in James’s peak of pique.  At one point Binoche tells him that she knows he hates her, and maybe in that moment he does.  But later, as he watches her sit down on some steps and rub her sore feet, I recognized that moment, too.  I knew what he was feeling then: remorse, compassion…and love.
 
“Certified Copy” is a film bursting with ideas and feeling.  It’s about the interplay and fluidity, in art and life, of perception, identity, mortality, reproduction, time.  Throughout the movie we see people and things reflected on “screens” such as mirrors and windshields.  If, like James and Binoche in this movie, we would go looking for the original, the “real you” in that hall of mirrors, it is because we know that the original is the one that contains the heart, the heart that—once upon a time, and still—we love.

 
Rating: ***** 

 
Key to ratings:

***** (essential viewing)
**** (excellent)
*** (worth a look)
** (forgettable)
* (rubbish!!)



Coach McGuirk

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Re: Certified Copy
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2011, 11:33:21 PM »
I just finished watching this movie and immediately grabbed my laptop to see what fellow filmspotters had to comment about it.

I am almost speechless, I am so glad that I was never spoiled about the "twist" in this movie....

I, like you, will have to watch it again and give a proper response, but right now, I just cannot put my mind around the words and how I feel about this film...

One this is certain, Binoche is one of the most genuinely beautiful actresses around. I couldn't take my eyes off of her the entire movie.

FroHam X

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Re: Certified Copy
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2011, 02:07:23 AM »
Awesome, I highly suggest you guys check out Close-Up, an earlier Iranian film from the same director. It's amazing.
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Scotty P.

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Re: Certified Copy
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2011, 10:43:51 AM »
Right on, Coach McGuirk.  I couldn't agree more about Binoche: I could watch her face forever.  It's one of the reasons I was happy that so much of "Certified Copy" is in close-up. 

(Speaking of which,  a copy of "Close-Up" is on my coffee table right now, FroHam.  I intend to give it a look tonight.  I've been going through his "Koker trilogy" as well.  And speaking of Binoche, Kiarostami and close-ups, have you folks heard about "Shirin"?  I've yet to check it out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirin_(film)).   

Yeah, I had to try to put my experience and my feelings about "Certified Copy" into words; the above was the closest I could come.  Here are a couple really brilliant analyses/discussions:

http://mubi.com/notebook/posts/2986
http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/2011/03/certified_copy_how_can_you_be.html


1SO

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Re: Certified Copy
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2011, 06:54:51 PM »
I couldn't figure out where to post this, but while collecting my thoughts I realized that my complaints are pretty spoilery so here we are.

What keeps you guessing throughout Certified Copy is the central conceit. Are Juliette Binoche and William Shimell playing a couple pretending to be role-playing strangers or strangers seducing each other by role-playing as a married couple? It's certainly open to interpretation, but it seemed fairly obvious to me. Abbas Kiarostami was remaking Scenes From a Marriage in the style of Before Sunrise, only he ends up with a film that is not nearly as good as either of the other two.

This could be blamed on me watching too much Kiarostami in such a short span of time, but in the most visual film I've seen from him to date, he's given a rather uninteresting portrait of a couple. Close-Up, Taste of Cherry, Ten and The Wind Will Carry Us had original characters in situations I've never seen on film before. Now in his breakdown and analysis of married life's trials and tribulations, I come away with no fresh insight. It's a well-worn path and the only twist here is the trick of showing the entire relationship play out over a day.

This is based on my interpretation of events, so you might enjoy it with a different perspective (or if you haven't seen Bergman's masterpiece). Following the scene with Binoche's son (who is less interesting and more annoying than the kid in Ten) we get to our couple. Their conversation contains moments that couldn't be believed if they were actually a married couple. The cafe scene with the waitress drops the suggestion of them being married and their talk after that shows knowledge of each other's habits that only make sense if they were actually married. (This is also where the film finally starts to get interesting and it's about 45 minutes in.) The argument in the restaurant shows the same couple but many years later in the marriage even though we're only a couple of hours later in the day. And so on. It's the same pattern of Scenes From a Marriage, right down to the "dark night of the soul" ending.

Kiarostami remains a great filmmaker and the film is certainly well-acted by the two leads, but Certified Copy can't make much of the story, which Roger Ebert accurately calls "thin soup". Once you get past gimmick I found little to enjoy aside from the acting.
RATING: * *
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sdedalus

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Re: Certified Copy
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2011, 07:39:58 PM »
No thoughts on the value of copies of artworks?
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1SO

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Re: Certified Copy
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2011, 07:55:43 PM »
No thoughts on the value of copies of artworks?
It's all spelled out in the beginning. They all have value. The original, the copy. I agree with that.
Are you suggesting the value of this film being a copy of Scenes From a Marriage?
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FroHam X

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Re: Certified Copy
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2011, 08:14:54 PM »
Oh Chuck. And you were doing so well.
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Totoro

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Re: Certified Copy
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2011, 09:26:55 PM »
Oh Chuck. And you were doing so well.

This.

Yet I have yet to see Scenes from a Marriage (I refuse to see the cut version on a small computer scene!) so I don't know if I can give a full rebuttal. I found the film to be similar to Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, but that didn't really bother me because these two people are much older than the characters in either film. In that way, I see it as a almost spiritual successor to Before Sunset in the way that these two people are now reflecting on their long relationship and whether or not they should continue with it. I don't see any problem with it even if you take it without the "gimmick". It's still a sharply written drama about a relationship and the actors are quite astonishing in it. I particularly love how the cinematography pulls off the interrotron shots that Errol Morris is so well known for.

1SO

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Re: Certified Copy
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2011, 10:17:36 PM »
This is one of those cases where I was probably extra hard on a film because I went in with such excitement and high expectations. I've seen some great films by Kiarostami this week and I thought he could do wonderful things with Binoche and this approach to examining a couple. I was expecting something more sophisticated and more penetrating than Before Sunrise. It invites the comparison but never approaches the same level of interest or enjoyment.

It only borrows the framework of two people in a city from Sunrise/Sunset. It takes much more from Scenes. (So disappointed that Martin hasn't seen this yet. I feel in my bones he will disagree with me, and since he loves Scenes even more than me I eagerly await his writeup.) I'm not faulting the film for borrowing from other sources. Like the film itself says, a copy of an original can be just as wonderful. I recently saw a British version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and it's brilliant. Beautifully written and superbly acted. Just as worthy as Woolf. My problem is that it borrows from Scenes, yet has nothing new or interesting to say on the matter. The performances by the two leads are great. And I liked the fluid way they're filmed and the occasional stares directly at the lens, the interrotron shots Totoro is talking about. It might even be Kiarostami's most accessible work, but it doesn't show what makes him such a unique and interesting filmmaker, and I'm disappointed by that.
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