"Certified Copy" **** (out of ****)
"Certified Copy" (2010) is yet another example of filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami's genius. Here is a delicate film which balances fact and fiction, reality and fantasy in a meditative, poetic masterful way.
Abbas Kiarostami is an Iranian filmmaker who is one of the great visionaries of our time. Every film he has made I would describe as a masterpiece.
At first I worried "Certified Copy", which was a success at the Cannes Film Festival, might not live up to Kiarostami's standards. "Certified Copy" is not an Iranian film. It is filmed in Tuscany and spoken in French, Italian and English. I was concerned a change in location may take Kiarostami out of his element. But it doesn't.
Kiarostami is a director who usually films conversations. He has a very minimalist style. Watch "Ten" (2002) or "Taste of Cherry" (1998) as examples. However "Certified Copy" does resemble another film by Kiarostami, "Close-Up" (1990), which I put on my top ten list. There too were themes of fantasy vs reality.
What makes "Certified Copy" so wonderful and engaging are the performances given by the two leads. Juliette Binoche plays Elle. Her performance here fills the screen with warmth and vulnerability. This is a contrast to William Shimell, who plays a novelist James Miller. Mr. Shimell is detached and cool.
James Miller is an English writer who finds himself in Italy promoting his new book "Certified Copy" which examines art and the issues of authenticity. Can a forgery be just as beautiful to look at as an original? Elle, who has read the book and says she doesn't like it, has arranged to meet James. She hopes he will sign some copies of his book so she can give them out as gifts.
But Kiarostami and "Certified Copy" have some tricks up their sleeves. And soon we enter a game of fact and fiction, authenticity and forgery. Viewers may even got lost in the blurry lines created here but that is what makes this film so engaging and memorable. It challenges us. It makes us think about what is going on. What is life? What do our experiences mean? Maybe we don't actually have to "live" life, maybe we can just pretend we have. Create stories in our head and make ourselves believe they are true.
I saw "Certified Copy" at the Chicago International Film Festival on its final day showing. But I have to believe the film will find distribution. Binoche won a "Best Actress" award at Cannes. Films she appears in usually find there way in American theatres; "Paris" (2009), "Summer Hours" (2008). And Kiarostami has a following here. If it is released theatrically here by the end of the year, it will be one of the year's best films!