Certified Copy (Copie Conforme)
Retrospective of a Cinematic Master
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In ‘Certified Copy’, Kiarostami plays a brilliant, at times perplexing psychological game with the audience. The result is a solid two-hand romantic drama that is at the same time a clever treatise on the nature of cinema and its process of engaging the audience in a fabrication that we experience as ‘real’.
A radiant Juliette Binoche – plays She (the character is never named), a French antique dealer who lives in Tuscany who comes to see James (opera singer and first-time film actor William Shimell) deliver a speech about his latest book, in which he writes about the value of original works of art, and suggests that, perhaps, copies of originals have their own value.
She and James have arranged to drive to Lucignano that afternoon. Suddenly, instead of interacting as strangers, the pair begin to behave like a married couple, their relationship very much on the rocks. But are She and James longtime lovers? Or are they just roleplaying for their own amusement? This puzzle we are contemplating is not just a fun cinematic game; it is also a clever reflection of cinema itself.
We are accustomed to watching actors pretend to be what they are not. For the duration of any given film, we are happy to engage, both emotionally and psychologically, with what is patently false as though it were true. Just as James’s book suggests that copies have similar value to originals, we see that our engagement with cinema is not dissimilar to our engagement with life.