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When author James Miller (William Shimell) launches his new book in Italy, Elle (Juliette Binoche) attends the press conference with her young son (Adrian Moore). She extends an invitation to James, who comes to her art gallery and their conversation touches on many things, including the intrinsic value of copies as opposed to the original. They spend the day together and she takes him to a small village in Tuscany, where different aspects of their relationship come to light.

Review by Louise Keller:
Nothing changes but our perceptions is the sentiment of this two-hander set in Tuscany in which Juliette Binoche (who won best actress at Cannes) and British baritone William Shimell (in his screen debut) venture on an emotional journey fuelled by words. Abbas Kiarostami’s film unfolds like a long conversation in which we become involved in the lives of a French art dealer and an English author whose relationship and philosophies play out slowly and sometimes with touches of confusion. Most of the time however, we hang on every word, waiting to see where this encounter will take us. Some may find the construct of this disarmingly subtle film contrived; others will jump in headfirst as the complexities of a relationship are highlighted with elegance.

The film begins with a staid press conference for the launch of the Italian translation of James Miller’s new book. His stilted speech is rather vague and dull, but we (and the camera) become more interested in the late arrival of Juliette Binoche’s Elle, who pays little attention to the speech, spending most of the time making signs to a young boy sitting across the aisle. Binoche has such a warm and real presence and we cannot help but be drawn by her. When Elle and the boy (Adrian Moore) finally leave together and chat over a cheeseburger and fries, the emotional climate is far more interesting.

Copies are as valuable as originals, according to James Miller, although this notion becomes a source of dispute between him and Elle. Was Leonardo’s portrayal of the Mona Lisa the original or was it the girl with the mysterious smile herself? In the case of Binoche, she is unquestionably the original.

They seem like strangers when he comes to her art shop, yet there are flashes of familiarity. James is cold and distant; Elle is emotional, warm and open. Things slowly change when she takes him to the tiny Tuscan village of Lucignano, where a bridal party is in full swing: a happy couple celebrates the beginning of their new life together. In the car they have talked about all kinds of things – coca cola, Andy Warhol, cyprus trees and perceptions. Like an elevator that rises to another level, things change when Elle and James order a glass of red wine in a local restaurant. The proprietor thinks they are married and Elle does not tell her otherwise. As Elle and James speak together in English, then in Italian and then in French – the use of language tells us as much about their relationship as their words. 

In part reminiscent of Before Sunrise and Conversations with Other Women but not as accessible as either, Certified Copy is a reflective and thoughtful film. It plays even better in hindsight, when the myriad of complexities mesh in our minds as we relive the events that begin with a man observing a woman and her son in Florence.

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(France, 2010)

CAST: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell, Jean-Claude Carrière, Agathe Natanson, Gianna Giachetti, Adrian Moore, Angelo Barbagallo, Andrea Laurenzi , Filippo Trojano

PRODUCER: Angelo Barbagallo, Charles Gillibert, Marin Karmitz, Nathanaël Karmitz, Abbas Kiarostami

DIRECTOR: Abbas Kiarostami

SCRIPT: Abbas Kiarostami


EDITOR: Bahman Kiarostami

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Giancarlo Basili, Ludovica Ferrario

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 17, 2011

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