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"Certified Copy" Movie Review

Updated on March 30, 2012

Certified Copy

Certified Copy is an unusual movie that is reminiscent of French movies of the 1950s like Last Year at Marienbad or perhaps some of Bergman's films or even Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf . The movie was set in Tuscany and directed by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, This was Kiarostami's first movie set outside Iran. The movie essentially has two characters, Elle, a middle-aged but beautiful single mother who has an antique shop in Arezzo, played by the incomparably beautiful Juliette Binoche, and James Miller, a British art historian played by William Shimell. Miller meets Elle at his lecture and book signing in Arezzo. The movie's title is the same as Miller's book which was inspired by a visit to Florence. The book explores the significance of original works of art versus copies of original art versus the object or person who is the subject of a work of art. Miller is a handsome but a cold and insufferable phony. Elle is a beautiful but prickly character.

Elle buys six of Miller's books and contrives to meet him after the book signing. She invites him to spend the day sight seeing with her. Soon it's apparent that they agree on hardly anything. Miller isn't impressed by the art reproductions in Elle's store, and Elle challenges Miller's theory of art. A waitress in a coffee shop mistakes them for a querulous married couple and offers Elle advice about husbands. Later, they meet an elderly man and his wife in the square who also take them for a married couple. The husband takes it upon himself to advise Miller on how to improve his relationship with Elle. Miller accepts the suggestion and walks beside Elle and puts his arm around her shoulder as advised. The remainder of the movie consists of Miller and Elle pretending to be a married couple who have returned to the town and church where they had been married fifteen years previously and to the hotel where they spent their wedding night. Elle tries to charm Miller, but when he doesn't fall for her she recites the grievances she harbors against Miller or perhaps against her former husband, e.g., his falling asleep without making love to her on the anniversary of their wedding. And Miller responds in kind. It was not clear to me whether Miller and Elle were recounting real experiences or play acting as if they were actually a married couple celebrating their fifteenth anniversary.

Juliette Binoche is superb in the leading role. If you are a fan of new wave French movies you probably will like Certified Copy. If not you may find it slow paced and puzzling.


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      Ralph Rawls 6 years ago

      Excellent review: I'm a fan of these two actors and your review convinced me to check it out at the local art film theater -- where it is most likely to be playing. I'll post a follow up review after I see it.