Juliette Binoche takes her impatient son to a reading by an author (opera singer William Shimell), though she doesn’t seem to like his book much. Then she goes out with the author, just a couple of strangers on a tour of historic Tuscany for a couple hours. A shop keeper talks to Binoche as if the author was her husband, and Binoche plays along and then – in a disturbing Lynchian shift – he is her husband. It’s a bit of playful make-believe between them at first, but it quickly turns real.
A perfect story for Kiarostami, who loves to blend fact with fiction. I’m glad that I read a little bit about this beforehand, had been told about the movie’s many “copies”, so I knew to look for them from the beginning – for instance, when Shimell first appears at the reading he tells the crowd a variation on the same lame joke that the man introducing him had just told. And there’s a breathtaking edit towards the end of the movie, a shot of the couple leaving a church, a copy of the shot preceding it. Funny that Kiarostami’s first feature outside his home country (was Tickets also shot in Italy?) is a copy of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s first foreign feature – a mixture of playful fantasy and domestic drama starring Binoche as a mother. Even though he’s making a marketable narrative film for the first time in a decade or so, Kiarostami still has some recognizable signature elements. The most comfortable conversation between our characters takes place in a moving car (below) and there are some good shots of trees, hills, roads, just enough to be recognizable if you’re looking for them, maybe even inserted slyly as a self-conscious trademark for the auteurists to hang onto.
Some of the writings online seem to think that the two were actually married, that the author may in fact be Binoche’s son’s father, and that it’s not as mysterious as all that… suppose I need to watch again.
It’s … a tribute to the freedoms that Kiarostami considers essential yet also a warning to those who might consider political and social freedom to be a self-fulfilling and self-sufficient liberation. The film breathes the air of freedom from outer constraints … suggests a range of romantic and erotic options that can’t be depicted in Iran. Yet other constraints are at the core of the film—there’s the bond of marriage, which the couple may or may not have undertaken, and which a host of other newlywed couples seen in the village (famed for bringing good luck) hopefully choose. And there’s the bond of the self, the inescapable and apparently immutable force of character, which seems to compel the free-spirited, unconstrained man, out on a spree, to choose as a mistress the same woman as the one he was, or is, married to.
… such a conspicuous leap from neo-Realism to European modernism, it sometimes feels like a dry comic parody. As the movie goes along, it begins to deconstruct itself by posing as a cinematic homage, or copy, if you will, of European art films of the 1950s and ’60s, with contemporary echoes. Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy, in which a couple played by George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman travel to Naples to sell a house, is the most obvious forerunner. Also alluded to are Michelangelo Antonioni’s Avventura, with its stark juxtapositions of ancient and modern images, and Alain Resnais’s elegant, memory-obsessed mind bender, Last Year at Marienbad. It has also been suggested that more recent antecedents like Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love and Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are role models. In any case, Certified Copy virtually announces itself as a deliberate stylistic composite.
Watched again with Katy in September. She thought I was showing it as a comment on the state of our relationship, which doesn’t even make sense. Anyway, movies about couples fighting make Katy sad, so she didn’t enjoy it much. Second time through I was thinking about the two ellipses in the movie. The opening sequence during the author’s reading is real-time, as is the entire rest of the movie beginning when he visits her shop, and an unknown amount of time passes between those segments (probably no more than a few hours). Then there’s the character ellipsis, when suddenly they change from a couple who has just met into one who has been married fifteen years.