Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Screenwriters: Abbas Kiarostami and Caroline Eliacheff
Runtime: 106 mins.
Australian release date: 17 February 2011
Certified Copy is the first film the acclaimed Iranian director, Abbas Kiarostami has made outside Iran. It harks back to his first feature, The Bread and the Alley, and many others, where he explored the relationship between realism and fiction. It is based on a story he told Binoche whilst dining together in a restaurant in Teheran. He said the events had happened to him, only to reveal that in fact it was all a pack of lies. This was the start of the collaboration between one of Iran’s finest directors and one of France’s finest female actors.
Juliette Binoche is a gallery owner, who is referred to as ‘Elle,’ a cipher for all women. She meets a man, James Miller (William Shimell), who is an English author not celebrated in his own country, but who has received reasonable acclaim in Italy judging by the crowd that has gathered to hear him speak at his book launch in a Tuscan town.
The book is titled ‘Certified Copy’ and we learn that James is pre-occupied with the idea of what is real and what is fakery. Is this a metaphor for the rest of the film? Kiarostami’s script is both compelling and frustrating as he takes us on a journey through the Tuscan hills where we experience the start of a relationship that appears sweet to begin with and gradually turns sour. It shows us how brutal and bitter familiarity can be, or is it all a game? Or are we just learning that, ‘there is nothing simple about being simple?’
Luca Bigazzi’s cinematography looks like one seamless take. He plays with the scenery and there is a passage during a car journey that has to be one of the most innovative visual experiences on screen. The location is exquisite, as is Binoche. The camera envelops her and even her silk frock starts to take on the folds of a Michelangelo sculpture. Oh yes, this is a film of real style.
Kiarostami has embraced the elegance and beauty of Italy. This is acknowledged in the town square in Arezzo, when a woman tells Binoche that, “Italy is one big open-air museum.” This we do know is not fiction. Binoche, when interviewed about the film said that, “Tuscany is one of those places where miracles can happen. It’s no surprise that there are so many saints, oils and greens there.”
Kiarostami took a chance with engaging William Shimell as his lead. Miller is one of Britain’s most accomplished operatic baritones and is well known for his interpretations of Don Giovanni. He was approached by the director whilst in rehearsal for a production of Così Fan Tutte that Kiarostami was directing. It was a good choice - Shimell is perfectly nuanced.
Certified Copy is a film about communication, mystery and despair. It does not spell things out in a formulaic manner. In fact, it leaves you wondering what the hell is really going on. However, if you want to see a master director and his actors at work, then do not hesitate to buy a ticket. After all, Binoche won the 2010 Best Actress award in Cannes for her role and justifiably so.