Certified Copy

Certified Copy ★★★½

#44 of 100 in my Top 100 Directors Challenge

Because I try to avoid reading a lot about a film before seeing it, I was completely wrong in my assumptions of what this one is about. Based on the title and poster, I thought it might be something like "The Double Life of Veronique," featuring dopplegangers and a couple running into their alternate selves. Oddly, that's part of what writer-director Abbas Kiarostami delivers here, but psychologically not physically.

Noted opera singer William Shimell plays the lead as author James Miller, an Englishman who has recently published a book about the importance of copies in the world of art. He travels to Italy to deliver a lecture on his book, where he meets Elle (Juliette Binoche), a French woman who owns an antiques shop and has lived in Italy for five years with her tween-aged son (Adrian Moore). Elle arranges to meet Miller before he leaves the country and have him sign six copies of his book for her sister Marie and several friends.

The two adults spend the afternoon together. Elle drives to a museum in the village of Lucignano to show Miller La Musa Polimnia, a famous forgery of a painting in Naples. As Elle and Miller discuss art and the concept of copies, there is some friction between them. She doesn't buy into his theory on the merit of copies versus originals, but there is something else -- an unusual tension that only becomes clearly revealed in a coffee shop later, when he steps outside to take a phone call and she discusses marriage/husbands with the proprietress (Gianna Giachetti).

I won't reveal any spoilers, but the film takes a 90-degree turn at this point that had me scratching my head. I rather like what Kiarostami has done by shifting perspectives, but it did feel more like a clumsy trick than a clever twist. The core idea leading up to the shift is that copies can be as valuable or even more valuable than their originals. But the last act here seems to negate that. Copies merely reflect whatever qualities an original may possess and lack power of their own. A bit confusing?

I should point out that one wonderful aspect of this film is how smoothly Binoche slides from French to English to Italian. She also makes a memorable scene out of "prettying herself up" with lipstick and earrings. No surprise, she earned the Best Actress Award at Cannes for her performance, while Kiarostami was nominated for the Palme d'Or and the won the Award of the Youth.

TajLV liked these reviews

All