‘Certified Copy’ is in many ways the critics’ darling and a sleeper foreign film waiting to be discovered. I wanted to climb on board. After all the movie is in many ways a romantic version of ‘My Dinner with Andre,’ a movie I love, but I’m sure part of ‘Certified Copy’s many problems to catch on is that like ‘…Andre’ the film is almost entirely made of dialogue. For the subtitled intolerant; however, the film fortunately is mostly spoken in English.
It all starts with a single parent mom, a Frenchwoman, Elle (Juliette Binoche) who, with her son, goes to see a British author, James Miller (William Shimell) give a public lecture related to his writing. Somewhat detached but precocious, her son reveals to his mother that she has a crush on the author, and, true to form, she manages to meet him on a Sunday which leads them to drive to a Tuscany village where they discover the environs of a pastoral setting.
Now the cultural clashes are many. He speaks English and a little French; while she is at least trilingual (fluent in French, English, and Italian). Their discussions about love, life, and art mark the distance between them as they pass by weddings at churches, museums, cafes, a restaurant, and a penzione (or motel dwelling). As diverse as their exposure is to many folkways and traditions, the real distance comes from their sexes. For this afternoon they spar to the point of contention until the resolution brings us some enlightenment. One of the best scenes is when James leaves a café to receive a cell phone call, and Elle speaks to a traditional Italian woman who makes observations about their relationship. While the elder woman makes some rash judgments, her comments show the dichotomy between the past and the present, especially contrasting the traditional and modern roles of men and women.
Truly, the script is finely honed; both Binoche and Shimell are skillful enough actors to provide the requisite chemistry, and Iranian Director-Writer, Abbas Kiarostami’s work has the pace and substance that art films are made of. Be it far from me to put down every myopic movie conceived, but for me the emperor has no clothes. I find this character study both trivial and irritating. It is somewhat like ‘Smart People’ without the humor or a Bergman film without the depth. I ended up not liking either characters or their ponderous philosophizing; or the questions they ask and refuse to answer. While I found ‘Andre’ mesmerizing, ‘Certified Copy’ doesn’t do much for the Venus and Mars dichotomy studied so well and so often before.
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