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Certified Copy - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Certified Copy
Directing: B-
Acting: B-
Writing: C
Cinematography: B+
Editing: C

Here is a movie that starts off with its charms, and then strips them all away systematically. Who wants to sit and watch a couple bicker for two hours? Not a whole lot of people, likely -- which the marketers of Certified Copy must have known, given how misleading they made the trailer.

Then again, writer-director Abbas Kiarostami clearly wanted us to start with these two characters feeling much the way the trailer suggests: that they are two middle-aged, possibly lonely people who meet and discover each other in Tuscany. But then a twist is thrown out that is so jarring, for some time I wondered what the hell happened. And from that point on the film ceased any semblance of being enjoyable.

The way things start, British writer James Miller (William Shimell) is late for his own appearance at an event promoting his book about art, and more specifically, the value of art even when it's reproduction. Even later than James, Elle (Juliette Binoche) arrives, sitting in the front row but not demonstrating any clear attention to the author's speech, as she's too busy whisper-bickering with her son about his preference for being out eating lunch.

Elle leaves a phone number, inviting James to her shop. This does not seem like a natural next step in events, but, you know -- it's a foreign film (even though James spends a lot of time speaking in English, and later, so does Elle). Somehow the two of them end up in Elle's car, driving through the Italian countryside. And then, like some strangely fractured version of Before Sunrise, the rest of the film follows these two as they have all manner of conversations.

Some of the time, these conversations make sense. James's book is used as a jumping-off point for a discussion of their differences of opinion regarding the authenticity of art. The title of the film, Certified Copy, suggests that this is meant to be used as an over-arching metaphor, or at least salient point. But James and Elle's conversation drifts away from this subject sooner than later, and then really never returns.

And then the narrative curve ball comes, out of the blue, putting everything seen up to that point into question, but never thereafter quite put into a comfortably new context. There's just a lot of James and Elle walking around, or sitting across from each other at restaurant or coffee shop tables, talking about this and that, the past, the present -- neither of which is any longer quite clear. Both of their moods seem to turn on a dime, with no apparent logic to it. One scene in particular is delivered with curious flatness, as though it were under-rehearsed.

Juliette Binoche has a lovely, welcome screen presence, even when her character is being irritating (which is a fair amount of the time). Unfortunately, William Schimell does not, and nor does he have all that much chemistry with Binoche. Although one does wonder, given the odd nature of the telling of this story, if he is even meant to.

Certified Copy is the kind of movie film snobs like to love by virtue of its very obtuseness. But the performances are merely adequate at best, and the script is either insufferably pretentious or just a tad too highbrow for the everyman. I'd say you can judge for yourself but for the fact that I can't bring myself to recommend seeing it.

William Shimell and Juliette Binoche tell a baffling tale in 'Certified Copy'.

Overall: C+
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