Kiarostami meets Kiarostami in a touching, ticklish “copy” of a European art-house romance concerning a copy of an artwork that seems to copy an earlier Kiarostami… “Certified Copy” (Copie conforme), understated, sly, lovely, is heavy meta all the way as Kiarostami makes his first fiction feature outside of Iran. James, a writer promoting his book (William Shimell, an opera baritone with no acting experience but a fine speaking voice) which considers why an original artwork surpasses a reproduction, meets a younger French woman, an art dealer, Elle (Juliette Binoche) and the pair take off to Tuscany on a lark after being mistaken for a couple. (“Elle” means “she”: more nouvelle vague-style play.) They get to know each other along the way, after the style of Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise,” but at a far less compelling level than the sublime “Before Sunset.” “Before Lunch”? There are storytelling strategies that kick in about halfway through “Certified Copy” that enlarge the story’s concerns with “authenticity,” but also allow for all-too-human complications in the characters’ behavior. (It’s better to stay vague than spoil the decorations in Kiarostami’s labyrinth.) The appearance in a small part by Jean-Claude Carrière, screenwriter to Buñuel, Oshima, Peter Brook, Michael Haneke, Philip Kaufman and others of the high-art-house era, only reinforces the play in “Certified Copy,” a simulacrum that manages to sweet glimmers of genuine emotion along with its rarefied intellectual play. Cinematographer Luca Bigazzi avoids the touristic in his lovely cinematography. Binoche won a best actress nod at Cannes for her fine, complex, sometimes cranky performance. If this is your cup of Cabernet, the aftertaste will grow on you, and the ending is a marvel. In English and French. 107m. (Ray Pride)
“Certified Copy” opens Friday at Landmark Century.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.