Let’s twist again, like we may have done last summer
Certified Copy; drama; not rated; in English, Italian, and French with subtitles; The Screen; 3 chiles
IDo you like that topsy-turvy feeling you get from riding a roller coaster, when down suddenly becomes up? Do you prefer movies in which nothing much happens except a heady, very personal conversation between two people? If so, I recommend you see Certified Copy, the latest film from highly esteemed Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami ( Taste of Cherry, Close-Up). However, let me also recommend that you put down your Pasatiempo without reading this review and see the film first. There’s almost no way to discuss Certified Copy without giving away the central, critical twist.
At least initially, Certified Copy is like a disorienting middle-aged version of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. Two attractive people, Elle ( Juliette Binoche) and James (William Shimell), spend a day wandering the streets of a picturesque Tuscan village and chitchatting. They’re strangers getting to know — and maybe falling for — each other. Or are they?
James, a British author, is in town promoting his new book, which addresses the idea that an original work of art is no more valuable than a copy. Elle, an expat Frenchwoman who runs an antiques shop in town, arrives late for James’ lecture, and though she seems very interested in him and his work, she leaves early to placate her bored, fidgety preteen son. She scribbles a note for the author, though, and leaves it with a mutual friend. Later, he comes by her shop with a few hours to pass before he has to catch a train. He suggests that they go out for some sightseeing and a little conversation.
It seems like a spontaneous first date, but this is no meet-cute. Elle’s behavior begins to vacillate between twitterpated and obsequious to condescending, defensive, and even hostile. James takes it all in stride. The proprietress of a café where the two stop for coffee assumes they are married, and Elle does not correct her. She’s just being polite, right? But when James recounts the event that gave him the idea for his book, Elle’s eyes fill with tears. She says his story “sounds quite familiar,” adding, “I wasn’t well in those days.” Do the two know each other? Or are they both unhinged?
Once Elle and James leave the café and resume their wandering, they are much more familiar with — and less enamored of — each other. Are they actually married? Is it simply easier for her to voice her grievances about her