August 6, 2010
When there’s a new film showing by a director with so much cinematic clout as Abbas Kiarostami, expectations and preconceptions amongst all manner of cinemagoers is bound to be high if not completely off the charts. So, with a head and heart full of said anticipation, my MIFF session of Certified Copy (2010) was soon underway.
Only minutes in, the theoretical foundations for the film were heavily and self-consciously laid: the copy leads to the original which certifies its value. Fine. Certifying the authenticity of a work is paramount yet “It’d be stupid of us to ruin our lives for an ideal.” Thus commenced the intense, yet still somewhat empty, one and three-quarter hour romantic/painful exchange between lovers/strangers Elle (Juliette Binoche) and James (William Shimmer). Whether or not their relationship with one another is an “authentic original” or a mere “certified copy” of one is absolutely irrelevant as either way it is valuable and bears connection to the original. In this way Kiarostami seems to be saying that all human relationships are authentic, insofar as they bear connection to an original through their very existence. An interesting and provocative idea indeed, but not wildly complex. It is at this point where the film begins to fall apart. Having coffee, wine and incessant conversation, Certified Copy resembles a bad blind date and, what’s worse, wades into the realm of sedative cinema.
Formally the film is excellent; production values are high all round, it’s visually stunning and polished to a T. Still, there is not enough left to mystery, ambiguity, rendering the film somewhat one-dimensional and ultimately therefore, a little cold. A good film for all intents and purposes, and not at all without merit, Certified Copy is worth a look but it’s just not all that it ought to be.