Into March’s quality wasteland at the multiplex comes this playful, provocative, literate European fable about artifice and middle-aged, second chances at romance.
Juliette Binoche stars as a French immigrant, identified only as Elle or She, who is raising her precocious son while running a small, subterranean antique shop in the rural Northern Italian village of Arezzo, located not far from Florence. One day, She attends a lecture by James Miller (operatic baritone William Shimell), a British art scholar who has written a book called ‘Certified Copy,’ whose working title was ‘Forget the Original, Just Get a Good Copy,’ delving into the relationship between the real and the fake, questioning why authenticity is considered imperative and asserting that an artistic reproduction might be considered as good as the original. Even though She acknowledges that some parts of the concept infuriate her, She buys six copies. One thing leads to another, and they subsequently embark on a leisurely, self-reflective drive through the Tuscan countryside to the bucolic, hilltop village of Lucignano with its serpentine, cypress tree-lined streets. In an interlude at a trattoria, the bourgeois proprietor (Gianna Giachetti) assumes they’re a married couple and shares her traditionally sexist views about husbands-and-wives. But by the time they reach the hotel, which is where She insists they spent their wedding night 15 years earlier, it’s theoretically uncertain whether they’re really strangers to each other or an estranged couple slyly playing out an elaborately surreal masquerade that commenced when they ‘met.’
This is 70 year-old director Abbas Kiarostami’s (“Taste of Cherry,” “The White Balloon”) first feature made outside of his native Iran, and Juliette Binoche won the best actress prize last year at the Cannes Film Festival. If the labyrinthine plotline seems familiar, its ancestry includes Roberto Rossellini’s “Journey to Italy,” Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Avventura,” Alain Renais’ “Last Year at Marienbad,” and Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Certified Copy” is an elegant, erudite, existential 8, a charming, metaphysical mind-game in Italian, French and English with English subtitles.