“Certified Copy” is the new film by Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, best known for such films as “A Taste of Cherry” and “Ten”. His first film made away from Iran, “Certified Copy” stars Juliette Binoche, who won the Best Actress award at Cannes for her slightly overwrought performance here. Despite the plaudits concerning a tour de force performance from one of France’s premier actresses, there is something more interesting at work in this apparent romantic drama.
The plot is essentially that of Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise”- two people meet in a scenic European city and spend the day wandering and talking about a variety of subjects. Art and romance are the key subjects here, but there is also a twist thrown in. Art curator Binoche and art theorist/ author William Shimell take on the roles of husband and wife and soon it almost becomes the real thing. Copying an apparent conveyor belt of newly-weds around them, the couple question whether an original has more validity than a copy or whether there is a difference. And, by extension, whether life imitates art or art imitates life.
The film is reasonably intriguing while it lasts and the arguments are entertaining and sometimes funny. Shimell, in his first screen role, shines during an outburst in a restaurant. If you feel inclined to care, the mystery of whether this couple have been married for fifteen years or have just meet is well presented and left open to interpretation.
Most interesting, however, is the film’s self-awareness. A romance film set in Tuscany is nothing new and Kiarostami is aware of this. His prestige and the film’s philosophical undertones are mere window-dressing. Kiarostami is aware that his fairly conventional little tale will be viewed differently than something like “Under The Tuscan Sun” simply because of its distribution in the arthouse circuit and because his name is attached. Like a Pop Art bottle of Coke, something everyday is perceived differently simply because of its surroundings.
However, the film is overlong, apt to confuse itself and rather self-indulgent. While “Before Sunset” is the film’s favoured comparison, I would have to draw more parallels with Roger Corman’s schlock horror-comedy “A Bucket of Blood”, an hour-long film which, essentially, says all that “Certified Copy” does without slowing down to accommodate its creator’s every whim. “A Bucket of Blood” knows its trash, and it really is, but it is also aware that it can say something too, even if it is the interpretations of the most arrogant and inept art critic. Essentially, if the shoe fits... The problem with “Certified Copy” is that, despite being a pleasantly diverting art film, it might give you blisters.