Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Certified Copy Strikingly Original

How do you define what is and is not art? Is art about originality or is it more about the way it makes you feel? If it is the latter, than should you get upset if something is a copy? These are just some of the numerous questions raised in Abbas Kiarostami mesmerizing film, Certified Copy.

The film follows a British writer, James Miller (William Shimell), as he is promoting his latest book in Tuscany. While there he meets and spends the day with a French antiques dealer (Juliette Binoche). As the couple explores Tuscany, debating the merits of originality verse reproductions, the tone of their conversation goes from flirtatious to oddly familiar. To say anymore about the plot would take away from the joy of watching how Certified Copy unfolds.

There is a wonderfully poignant moment, early on in the film, where James discusses how people misguidedly judge art based on the form and shape in which it is delivered. James uses the Tuscany landscape to prove his point, highlighting that the beautiful trees in Tuscany get ignored by the locales. However, if those same trees were to be placed in a museum they would be heralded as being true art. In many ways Hollywood studios could use the philosophy engrained in this film to justify the countless number of remakes and reboots hitting theatres lately. Kiarostami is challenging audience to focus more on the reaction art evokes rather than the form in which the art is presented.

One of the enjoyable things about Certified Copy is the way Kiarostami uses the film itself to emphasize the points that his characters are discussing within it. He forces the audience to question what is real and what is fake? Is the couple meeting for the first time or pretending to meet for the first time? If they are pretending does it make their connection any less engaging? It is a daring choice in regards to how Kiarostami structures his narrative and how he pulls the rug out from the audience at times.

Kiarostami does not only change your perception of events mid-stream, but in doing so he also changes how you view the characters. At the beginning James is portrayed as the open-minded individual who sees beauty in everyday objects. Whereas the unnamed woman sees art and real life as two distinct terms. However, as the film progresses, James soon loses his ability to see the beauty of both the woman in front of him and the time they have shared together. Even when tackling the issue of love, Kairostami pushes the audience to analyze their own notion of love by playfully juxtaposing the increasingly disgruntle couple with images of newly married couples and elderly couples who have be in love for years.

Although thought-provoking, and masterfully directed by Kiarostami, Certified Copy never comes across as a gimmick. The film plays like a wonderful piece of cinematic art that begs to be watched numerous times in order to decipher all of the nuances.


  1. I caught the film at a local theater and was a bit perplexed by it. And for good reason. It was before I got into more difficult cinema.

    It does - as you said - provoke plenty of questions about art.

  2. Strong review. I think you hit on the most fascinating element, how the relationship itself becomes part of Kiarostami's exploration. I've seen the film three times now and I get more out of it with each viewing. Looking forward to returning to it again.

  3. I love the title of this review! I've been meaning to see this for a long time, thanks for the reminder. I kind of like the mysterious vibe from the trailer, it tells me that there's more than meets the eye, which sounds like it is. Can't wait to see it.

  4. @Sam - This is a film that really needs to be watched a couple of times to truly grasp.

    @James – I am really looking forward to returning to the film as well. I feel like I only cracked the surface of what Kiarostami is attempting to do with the film. I love how layered the film is. Binoche performance is also really interesting to watch as well, her character goes through so many different tones.

    @Ruth - I highly recommend checking the film out if you get a chance. I would love to hear your thoughts on it.


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