Monday, November 25, 2013

Certified Copy (Copie conforme) -- mini-review

Director: Abbas Kiarostami, 2010 (UR)

A French woman listens to an Englishman lecture in an Italian town. She is sitting in the front row, but her son is a distraction and they leave. But she gets a message to the speaker and they meet the following day and take a car journey into Tuscany. That is the synopsis of this casually intriguing movie whose plot superficiality belies the depth of questions it raises and fails to answer.

Juliette Binoche (Blue) plays Elle, the intelligent and cultivated French woman who seems to be attracted to the Englishman. William Shimell, a famous British opera singer in his feature debut, plays James Miller, a writer whose new book posits that certified copies of art are as valid and valuable as the works of art themselves. For art gallery owner Elle, this proves alluring if not challenging.

As she drives him on their journey, their relationship takes center stage. As it slowly reveals itself, it seems to transform in front of our eyes leaving us to wonder what it really is. The secret that slowly emerges remains vague and just out of reach. Is it real? Or is it a good copy, one that convinces and hence carries value?

It reminds us that we are certified copies of an original. We bear the likeness of our maker (Gen. 1:26-27). Though we may not see it when we look in the mirror, we still carry this image. Defaced and hidden behind other colors on the tapestry of our humanity, it still remains waiting to be renewed and reclaimed. Regardless of if or when this occurs, there is inherent value, even in this certified copy.

Like Richard Linklater's fabulous trilogy of films (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight) this movie focuses primarily on the dialogue between the two. This offers a fine treat, if just to see Binoche verbally spar with Shimell.  And also like Linklater's films, there seems to be no firm resolution. It is all in the eye of the beholder.

Copyright ©2013, Martin Baggs

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