Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Cast: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell, Jean-Claude Carrière
Spoilers Within: Yes
Film 17 – #17 in ‘The Hard Drive Randomiser’
Abbas Kiarostami’s penultimate feature cites the notion that discussions of artistic authenticity are irrelevant, as each and every reproduction – be it a statue, portrait, or curio – is itself an original work of art that should be held in equal merit to the true original. James Miller (accomplished British baritone William Shimell) is on a European book tour to promote this dissertation, meeting antique dealer Elle (Juliette Binoche) whose career presupposes that she disagrees with the belief that replicas are of similar worth to the initial work.
Certified Copy presents these two sides elegantly, never neglecting the fact that there is a logic behind both points of view. James and Elle’s first conversation is presented much like the argument: side by side. While their chat is initially a little flirtatious suggesting a possible history between the two, the characters soon become native of their personalities: James the sophisticated yet surly, and Elle, fascinated yet unhappy. One simple assumption changes their dynamic entirely, and sets the film on an unconventionally odd path.
This second act turn is unexpectedly enigmatic: are they entertaining this ruse brought about by a simple misunderstanding? or do they actually have a fully formed history together? These characters refuse to address their possible role play – even in the face of bystanders and wedding guests mirroring their observations – which lead me to believe that it was all a truth, only for a subdued comment or exasperated glance to convince me otherwise. It’s intriguing at first, and the way Kiarostami fuses these acts together with assured fluidity is captivating, but their constant dialogue to the contrary – in particular the farcical, poorly perfomed dinner table tantrum – began to wear a little thin, and as the established mystery dissapated into a narritive impossibility, so did my interest.
That’s not to say that I didn’t like how it actively avoided closure with the duo, but I suppose I would have preferred a trace level of ambiguity to latch on to. At their reconciliation there’s still the question of authenticity, but no answer was forthcoming. But then, much like the art they scrutinise, perhaps that’s the entire point.