Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Certified Copy (Copie Conforme; France, 2010)

Genre: Other
If this film had been directed by Eric Rohmer, I would be bowled over in admiration, but just because it's by an Iranian director whom I’d never heard of, I’m less impressed. It turns out to be ignorance on my part, for Kiarostami is a well known and highly respected master of his art. To what extent is our appraisal of a work affected by its source?

The main character is an English author who’s just written a book called “Certified Copy” which he is promoting in Italy where its idea was born. The book sets out to prove the contentious claim that an authentic copy is of just as great a value as the original work of art. For art is a subjective personal experience, and the copy would give just as great a pleasure as the original, so long as the viewer looks up in awe as if it were original.

So there’s an admiration for the one who can look on the world with simple satisfaction. For example, what if a man stranded on a desert island came upon a bronze lamp and a genie appeared granting him three wishes? What would he ask for? Coincidentally, I’d asked exactly this question on Yahoo Answers just a couple of days previously! His first wish is for a self-replenishing cup of coke. He tests it out, taking a long cool drink, and indeed it replenishes. “Hurry up!” says the genie, “What is your second wish?” Delighted, the man orders two more!

This movie has been described as a more mature version of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. It simply follows the two main protagonists, the English author and his French admirer, played by Juliette Binoche, as they seemingly aimlessly wander about a village in rural Tuscany, talking to each other in a mixture of languages, mainly English. It’s a talky movie, the kind I like, and that most people find very boring, though there is rather a Pirandello-twist of the genre of which it is a copy.

Themes of uniqueness, identity, memory and disconnectedness pervade. But on the other side is a dream of harmony, of union and of love that never changes. “For man, life is his work.” says the barmaid sweepingly, “For woman, life is for living in all its aspects in the knowledge that she is loved.” How then to bridge the separation? Isn’t love more than just knowledge? More than proofs, more than communications, more even than simple heartfelt gestures like a hand upon the shoulder... “If only we could be more understanding of each other’s weaknesses,” the writer muses as he sits alone, head bowed, but the faultline lies much deeper than understanding.

Maybe the answer lies in art…and imagination.


  1. Can't wait to see this! Great review!

  2. Thanks Nancy! It's definitely not a crowd-pleaser. Why were people laughing? They must have been laughing at themselves! was a comment by one. But it was funny in an ironic way and if you like slow talky arty movies, then I think you'd enjoy it.

    I write reviews knowing that most people who read them won't go on to see or read what I'm reviewing, so I try to capture the essence within the review, something a proper tease of a review shouldn't do, so apologies if I ever give away too much. Still, I keep it abstract unlike trailers which really go ahead and spoil everything.

    Oh, by the way, the other question I asked on Yahoo Answers just before seeing this movie was about when compassion or love for oneself or others is actually egotism or degenerates into proofs of love and how to distinguish at the time? I think perhaps this film had some bearing on that question too, but more subtly than the outright coincidence of the three wishes. :-)

  3. Just answered your question on Y/A...:-)

    You're a terrific reviewer....I honestly didn't realize these were yours!

  4. You're sensively right, dude. Not a lot of people delight on 'slow talky arty' movies. Present time vievers prefer action-packed and violent films that exhibit unrealistic force and wordless scenarios. I do watch those too, but never take them as seriously as the 'real life quotes' of the talky arty movies. We learn more about life and all its multiple layers by attentive listening to core voices.

    Your review writing should change the way most people look at and hear things. Keep it up, dude! And thanks for sharing.

    A great day to you!

  5. Catherine, I don't usually like trailers... firstly because they spoil the movie, secondly because they are trying to "sell" you something, and thirdly because they all have the same guy who does the deep voiceover in the background. The exception is for rubbish action or comedy movies because we don't want to watch the movie, and then the trailer is a great way of seeing all the best bits in two minutes.

    Having said all that, this trailer is actually ok. Doesn't give away much at all. Thanks for taking the trouble to post it! :^)

    Why Jach! If anything I said changed the way someone watched movies, that would be quite incredible, especially given how "slow" I am. I'm always in desperate need of someone to explain to me the subtleties of difficult films, and because it's rare that I'm in the company of such a person, to be honest many things go straight over my head. But I'm also quite patient which makes up for it. Worst film I've ever watched right the way through was "Death in Venice"... I had some friends who said I just didn't understand it, and others who'd seen the first couple of minutes and couldn't believe I could watch the whole thing. Thanks for the good wishes, I wish the same to you. And thanks for reading!

    Nancy, that's a brilliant answer you gave! Yes, I think it does come down to self-respect and doing things which give people joy and happiness. The line is much easier to draw when you consider it like that. Thank you!

    And thanks for your kind review of my reviews, lol. I think because my purpose is not to "sell" it to anyone, that gives me a bit more freedom to just free associate and share some of the things I got out of it, rather than trying to tempt others to go along also.