There are some movies that are nearly impossible to review because to tell the story is to give away (ruin) the experience of watching it. Certified Copy is one of those films. Directed by Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry) and starring the luminous Juliette Binoche who won the Best Actress Award at Cannes for her role in this film, it is about the most confusing 106 minutes I have spent in a long time. Not a bad confusion, but a well planned, edge of your seat waiting and wondering when it is all going to make sense confusion. The central question, which pops up about 20 minutes in, has you questioning what is true and what isn’t right up until the end. And in addition to the twisting plot, the film alternates between English, French and Italian.
Certified Copy takes place in hill towns of Tuscany mostly over the period of one day. The movie begins with Elle (Binoche) coming to a book-promoting lecture by a British author (William Shimell) on authenticity and fakery in art. Though she doesn’t stay, she leaves a note inviting him to meet her the next day at her antique shop. From there she takes him for a drive to another town where they spend the day wandering, discussing art and the nature of relationships, and sightseeing, though the way it is filmed, the viewer doesn’t really see a lot of the Tuscan town. The story is told mostly in medium shots, which makes you wonder what is just beyond the frame. This is of course part of the filmmaker’s design to make you just uncomfortable enough, to keep you slightly off kilter through the whole film.
Certified Copy is a hard film to recommend for most people, but if you like arty, intelligently written foreign films, this one will not be like anything you’ve seen and you’ll be thinking about it for days to come. If it is around where you are, take the chance. You’ll be glad you did.