'Certified Copy': A discourse on art and marriage

Posted: October 15, 2010

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's first feature set outside his homeland, Certified Copy, offers a shambling, multilingual discourse on the nature of art and the nature of marriage. That this purposefully twisting exercise takes place amid the sun-burnished cypresses and towns of Italy's Tuscan region, where ancient statuary is as commonplace as the bread and wine, only makes this enigmatic meditation the more pleasing.

William Shimell, an opera baritone making his film acting debut, is James Miller, a British author in Florence reading excerpts from his art history book, Certified Copy, puckishly subtitled Forget the Real Thing, Just Get a Good Copy. An enthusiastic fan, a Frenchwoman (Juliette Binoche) with a precocious son, invites James to her antiques shop afterward.

And then, the Englishman and the engaging expat are off for a drive in the country and a roller-coaster afternoon looking at art (and forgeries of art); looking at a parade of happy brides and grooms; and looking at each other across the table of a cafe (where a pivotal exchange occurs between Binoche's Elle and the proprietress), then a deserted restaurant.

It would be irresponsible to describe what develops between James and Elle any further - and it will be impossible not to wonder about it after Kiarostami lets his end credits roll. What is a marriage? What's the difference between something original and something fake, or calculated, or modeled on the real thing?

And what is the real thing, and how does time alter our perceptions?

Shamble around and mull.

Contact movie critic Steven Rea

at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/


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