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An enigma, a puzzle, a portrait and a copy
jasongrimshaw17 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Certified Copy is at first sight a romantic drama set on a single day in a small Tuscan village. A beautiful, if typical European art-house picture, but in fact it has something much more significant to offer.

I have to laugh at the constant use of the word "pretentious" on this site in relation to films which are challenging thematically and which do not engage all viewers. These reviewers use it in place of the word 'boring' because, I suppose, they feel that labelling it as merely boring suggests they have difficulty understanding it or engaging with it, when in fact that's their criticism.

It's a miss representation of both the correct meaning of that word and what this film achieves. This film is not pretentious, it is exactly what it purports to be - an examination of a relationship in terms of reality and perception. A conversation examining the value of copies within our lives. It is also unmistakably a Kiarostami film. It's not for everybody.

A French woman (Binoche) attends a lecture from a British author, James Miller (Shimell). Miller has just published a book on the subject of copies in the art world. She leaves the lecture early, but not before leaving her number for the author. The next day he calls to her gallery and the pair travel to Luciagno on what seems at first like a date.

As the day progresses and the pair discuss his book and argue about the validity of copies versus originals, a complicity between them emerges. Perhaps they know each other quite well. perhaps this is not a first date. In a café a waitress mistakes them for a married couple and they decide to play along. However this game seems to get out of hand as they assume the roles of a couple who have been married for 15 years. Or do they. Perhaps they are or were married...

Kiarostami skillfully weaves his tale around these two characters while examining his central theme that nothing is really original and that we all assume roles in our lives. This is a recall of the themes he masterfully examined in Close Up.

At first sight the film may seem like an almost clichéd European art film, but it is in fact a version or copy of one, this is examined in a startling scene where the couple argue about the aesthetic value of a fountain. (Which is not real and was only placed there for the film). She loves it he doesn't. He finds it clichéd and ornate, while she has a very personal and sentimental reaction to it, much like many viewers are having to the film. However, Kiarostami is keen to ensure that it's clear that her perception is no less important or correct than his. Hers may be an emotional reaction, but it is a perfectly legitimate one. This film is not called Certified Copy' for nothing, it's Kiarostami's copy of a European art film, but is it any less valuable than the originals? Of course not. It exists in and of itself, independently of the 'original'.

Kiarostami's film is very open ended. It never really explains the relationship between the two, which will exasperate audiences looking for a clear resolution. However, while people may come to different decisions as to the truth all the ingredients necessary are there.

My interpretation is that they are not married, nor are they strangers, I believe that she is his mistress of 15 years and she longs to be his wife, while he is somewhat indifferent to her and probably has a wife. Their relationship is a 'copy' of a marriage without the legitimacy afforded to the other brides who appear regularly throughout the film. Kiarostami's film makes it clear that although she is 'only' the mistress, her feelings are legitimate.

Kiarostami's film looks beautiful and uses it's location to great effect, without becoming a postcard travelogue. His usual visual tropes are all present from the long, unbroken takes to the direct to camera acting. In his first screen role William Shimell gives a solid and believable performance as the pompous and emotionally distant English man, while Binoche in her Cannes Best Actress winning role is a revelation. Her character is a mess of emotions and Binoche performs them with sheer skill. At times one can see that she is portraying her character as portraying these emotions and this acts to add depth to the concept of copies and reality. A brave and thoughtful performance.

Certified Copy is not for everyone. To really 'get' the film one must fully engage in their discussion of some abstract and philosophical themes and in that respect the film may be more enjoyable in retrospect or on second viewing (I need to see it again!). However, for those who submit to it, it's a rich and rewarding cinematic diversion from the Iranian master of illusion.

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Time and time again
chaos-rampant13 May 2011
The mystery of this relationship will likely resonate the most with people. How do these two people know each other, is she the mistress, wife? I think it counts that Kiarostami has designed it to be impenetrable by logic, blurred the cause and effect, which is a way of dispelling the notion that we can know the world by it. Is he going to put his hand on her shoulder, will he take the 9 o'clock train out of there, I'd rather ask these questions myself. Both pertain here eventually, as abstractions of life. A man and a woman, whose relationship real or imaginary we might know from our own efforts.

They stop in a museum before the picture of a portrait, thought for centuries to be the original, though lately discovered to have been only a perfect copy. What value has changed in this object, what new perception now regards it, this is where I believe this is best unraveled.

Things change the man quips philosophically, an intellectual much like Kiarostami perhaps. Yet we see the same cypresses standing by the same old road, the same plazas and hotels they once visited, then young and booming with love. Having spoken so well, we see however that the man understands little of that. He can't even enjoy a simple glass of wine without complaining that it is corked, what should be a simple pleasure is tainted by the gross irritation that comes from too much satisfaction. Having satisfied our desires so many times, in so many different ways, we can see that we are no closer to happiness.

Where does this weariness then, born from too much familiarity, from having seen or tasted too much, come from and why does it invest our gaze with this constant dissatisfaction? Another line of thought to connect the web of allusions. The woman, who has made herself beautiful for him in the day of their anniversary, says he doesn't see her anymore. He looks at her but doesn't see, meaning something has dissipated with time, grown withered in his eyes, though she is still the same, except a little older.

Kiarostami perfectly visualizes the burden that saddles these people in the scene where they are driving around town in the car. On the windshield we see cast over their faces the reflections of buildings gliding by, not simply the gap that exists between them, indeed between any two human beings, but the burden of time, life passing them over. In a poignant metaphor, we see them move through existence.

A perfect copy, the original, two identical objects which we are taught to perceive differently. The lines being the same in the same places, the hues of color painted exactly the same, the one intrinsic value that separates the two is merely time. Which is to say that as humans, who wither away with time, we allow ourselves to regard it as the most precious good, the one we cannot buy or sell. The movie shows us how, although we may understand our transience as an idea, we live as though we will always be here, as though we have time enough to postpone a small gesture of affection.

But if we simply perceive the world around us, this present moment? This draught of air now coming from an open window or this glass of wine? Or indeed this woman who has made herself beautiful for us?

This is a great film by one of the few gifted filmmakers of our times, perhaps his first truly great one. In the right ears, this will be a sutra that will permit us to meditate on fundamental precepts of existence, how time thought to matter matters little, how craving and ego blind us. How ultimately, like a mandala upon which Tibetan monks work tirelessly day and night only to destroy it upon completion, life is to be lived in full, with knowledge that it will come to pass.
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Profound, intelligent, enthralling.
Rockwell_Cronenberg27 July 2011
"Certified Copy" is a film essentially cut in two. Both halves are lovely and when put together it makes for a remarkable whole work. It's a very simple film on the surface, the plot made up almost entirely of a day-long conversation between an author (William Shimell) and a woman (Juliette Binoche) showing him around town. The conversation begins with them being these strangers meeting for the first time, as they discuss his new book (the title of the film) and the theories he brings up within it. They discuss the significance of a copy as opposed to it's original and the film brings up a lot of questions on artificiality, within culture and within life. Questions arise as to whether or not every individual person is just essentially a copy of someone else, and this becomes absolutely fascinating. Then, everything changes. A waitress at a cafe mistakes them for a married couple and the two spend the rest of the day going along with this, playing a game that they are married and they go back and forth as an unhappy couple would.

Or was it mistake? It becomes clear that these people have some connection with each other, whether they are divorced, former lovers or something entirely separate, and the conversation becomes much more biting and intriguing. Writer/director Abbas Kiarostami keeps us gripped into this conversation, as these two ponder on the copies of the world, along with the tribulations of a marriage, what makes a good husband, what makes a good father and so much more. She attacks him for being such an absent father (is her son really his?) and he explains that sometimes one partner in the marriage just has to be gone and that's the way the world is. The film poses so many interesting questions on the world and leaves it up to the viewer to decide the answers for themselves. Each character has their own strong opinion, but Kiarostami never takes a side and tells the viewer the resolution. It's a powerful picture that keeps you thinking long after it's over.

Part of the power of course relies on the strength of the performances, and both of these actors knock it out of the park. William Shimell was the perfect choice for the distant, simple author. Juliette Binoche, however, steals the show, with an authentic and brave performance that ranks up with some of her absolute best. She is arguably the finest actress in cinema today, and has a grasp on portraying vulnerability that very few actors can come close to achieving. Within her you really see the pain of a woman scorned and the exhausting life led by a single mother constantly having to think of someone other than herself. She is everything here; emotional, strong, falling apart and beautiful. It's a perfect performance in a magnificent film. I feel like this is a picture that will only get better on repeated viewings, and it's still quite strong on the first one.
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Review: Certified Copy (Copie Conforme)
movieevangelist28 January 2011
The Pitch: It's like looking in a mirror, only… not.

The Review: Juliette Binoche has had a career spanning nearly thirty years, and for much of that has jumped between roles in her natural language and English. You might think that, with the supposed paucity of good female roles in movies, that there's not much left for Binoche to cover that she hasn't before, but here she gets to explore some new territory to Cannes best actress award-winning effect. In the process, she gets to cover a range of languages, not only English and French but Italian, but in this case there is a specific purpose to the variances of the language.

The set-up is simple: William Shimell plays James Miller, an British author on a tour of Tuscany where his work on originality in art has been better received than in his homeland. Binoche is the woman who comes to hear his talk, and the two are then drawn together in a discussion of his work. Once the two meet again, the course of the movie charts their discussions over the course of an afternoon, taking in the Italian countryside and engaging with a number of characters along the way who cause them to reflect on their differing viewpoints on Miller's work.

There's a turning point as we approach the halfway mark where one of those characters seemingly mistakes the pair for a married couple. What starts as a role play, set off by the misunderstanding, takes on more and more aspects, and eventually both the pair and the audience are lost in the drama. The whole movie reveals itself to be an intricate construct on this concept, almost every aspect of the theme, the performances or the setting playing with the motif of originality versus imitation. Reflections in car windows sometimes obscure the actors themselves, POV shots ask us to engage directly in the drama almost as a participant and this even extends to the leading pair themselves – Shimell is a renowned baritone, not an actor, and there is a slight but noticeable difference between his performance and that of Binoche, which almost feels like a copy of acting rather than being fully immersed in the role.

While this reinforces the concept, it does prevent the audience from fully engaging, being kept slightly at arm's length by the constant artifice. That's not to say that there's not a lot to enjoy here, with the confusions and the tensions making this verge on a romantic comedy at times. Despite the differences in acting ability, Shimell and Binoche make an engaging couple at times and as time wears on, you find yourself more keen to believe that the beginning was the illusion and that their relationship is real and not the copy. Much of the credit for this must be placed at Binoche's door, using the language differences to vary mood effectively, but also adding colour and emotion in all of the languages she uses. The only one here who's on familiar ground is director Kiarostami, who's explored these themes before but never to such mainstream effect – worth checking out if you'd like to engage your mind and your heart.

Why see it at the cinema: There is a very literal aspect of the visuals which runs throughout the course of the movie, which the cinema screen will allow you to fully appreciate.

The score: 7/10
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The Ideas of Plato Writ Large
mrwillpeters27 January 2014
I came across the film when researching a piece I was writing on Plato's ideas of beauty and aesthetics. Although Plato isn't for everyone I thought this film really helped my students understand some of his central concerns relating to the difference between an idea, a reality and an imitation. In our class discussions on Plato's notions of Mimesis and Diegesis, this film greatly helped.

The film forces us to wonder to what extent the relationship between the two central characters is real, or an imitation of a once real relationship. It asks is a real relationship any better than a certified copy i.e a fake relationship where both parties pretend it is real. That is the central question - the value of the authentic versus the value of the fake.
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An authentic fascinating confusion
wl32317 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
If certifying an art piece as a copy means defining the authenticity of its original, watching Certified Copy means reviewing how much ideals, expectations, and fantasies about love you have projected to your life. What does your true self intrinsically need from love? And, how do time and life changes affect your perspective?

James the protagonist would rather challenge himself with one of the most difficult writing tasks, i.e. endorsing the originality of art work, than get engaged in the search for an authentic love. For marriage, he holds a pessimistically detached attitude, which is seen at different points in the film, and cannot be clearer when he refused to take a picture with the young couple at the popular wedding spot. For him, marriage is just a copy of an image of what people think love should ultimately lead to, but marriage is not exactly what love is meant to be. For him, love should be liberating (like the way that Cypress trees extend their branches); it cannot be maintained without adaptation to changes, including changes caused by the lapse of time, new responsibilities, career ambition, etc. His detachment towards Juliet Binoche (who played the nameless character, the woman who sometimes seems to be his wife and sometimes simply seems to be a book fan) may be an expression of his insistence on the originality of love.

Binoche is the opposite of James. She gives values to copies, even though she recognizes the superiority of originals. This is reflected in her antique shop, where both originals and copies are displayed and sold. While James shows contempt to Original Copy, she highly regards it. (Original Copy is the painting copy which was mistaken as the original for such a long time that it eventually got acknowledged as a valuable art work and displayed in the Tuscany museum). For her, love is an ideal but not without responsibilities. Marriage may be just an illusion of love, but it can be just as real and rewarding if you believe in it hard enough and work on it hard enough. Unfortunately, she is in love with someone who does not share the same value as her, someone who does not want his own liberal spirit to be inhibited by responsibilities, and someone who does not conform to the inferiority of copies.

The most intriguing part of the story is that you never know the relationship between James and Binoche. Obviously this is not a mystery to solve, but an idea to play with. You can see them as two people who newly met, but just play along after being mistaken as a couple. Both of them have demonstrated certain transference as the story goes, but Binoche was almost overtaken by it. Unintentionally, they projected their feelings towards their spouse onto each other. You can also see James as the constantly unavailable husband of Binoche, a man who needs to be free from obligations to enjoy life. It is interesting to note that, what seems to be confusing to viewers is plain and clear to the people around these two persons – they all see them as a couple, including the waitress, the new young couple at the church, the old couple by the fountain, and the inn keeper. For us viewers, the confusion did not start until after the conversation between the waitress and Binoche. From then on, James and Bionche started role playing or revealing their past. Either way, the process is punctuated by intense and emotional moments. It raised the questions of how we react to others' interpretation of us, what constitutes their interpretation, and how our reaction to the interpretation affects us in return. If one's identity is shaped by - or worse- caters to other's interpretation, how authentic can his life remain? How well are we aware of our true self? How much does awareness matter?

I love the way that the director uses the camera. At some points, the viewer feels like standing behind a two-way mirror watching the characters. At some points, the viewer feels like sitting in the position of James or Binoche, being looked right into the eyes and talked to. At some other points, the viewer feels like being in the position of the new couple, whom Binoche was waving at. The open ending is excellent. The question that is left to be answered is whether James took the train and left, or he stayed with Binoche.How to draw the line between the value of originality and the value of copies? Are you going to compromise? What is the standard for a "certified copy"? What are acceptable and not acceptable for an authentic love/life?
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An exhausting but rewarding journey through a physical and emotional landscape.
Gray_Balloon_Bob16 February 2015
I like it when a film really understands its characters and as we follow them we can see their foibles and their follies and their humanity being opened up and challenged. The Coen Brothers do this with impeccable black comedy in the framework of a thriller, as in Fargo or Barton Fink or Burn After Reading, whereby the entire tenuous structure of people's lives begins to collapse and we are left perfectly conflicted with sympathy and delight in how this will play out. Then there's the Before Trilogy, and Journey to Italy, which quietly follows its characters learning about themselves as we are too. Certified Copy plays like a condensed version of the Trilogy, and has some of the 'lost in a landscape bigger than themselves' exploration of Journey, yet this film never feels as in control or as vitally connected to its ideas as those films do. Many things are discussed, and layers revealed, but it's just not entirely convincing.

Not entirely convincing, but an excoriating watch nonetheless. When this film was finished, I felt like I had just witnessed an entire relationship, from the first fruitful seeds, to infatuation and love and friction and wear and decay, and in a sense I had because that is essentially what the two characters of the film take us through. The film begins with William Shimell, playing the role of modest and charming British academic who is promoting his book in Italy. The idea of this book gives the film its title and what the whole film begins to play around with: the copy. The copy, and it's relation to the original, its authenticity, and whether one should invest any time in an original if a recreation is believable. He would answer 'no' to that last thought. Juliette Binoche appears at his speech, leaves his translator a note, and the next day he appears at her small museum/exhibition/trinket shop, artistic debate is continued, and thus their journey begins. The boundaries of conversation between two people who are seemingly strangers soon dissolves and they are soon fluctuating between moments of bitterness, delight and contemplation, and soon enough in what appears to be a bizarre role-play, the assume the role of a married couple and any façade that they try to wear is soon being flayed.

Binoche is utterly captivating and her award for Best Actress at Cannes is entirely deserved. She is seemingly inexhaustible, communicating in Italian, French and English and losing no degree of vulnerability, bitterness or magnetism between the languages, and she has a remarkable way of kind of softly inhabiting any given situation but being able to turn caustic and uncomfortable with immediacy. There are moments when the characters are sitting opposite each other in conversation and they are speaking directly into the camera, and when Binoche does this it's never less than transfixing.

Shimmel, for a first time actor is for the most part quite grounded and reserved, but it's with him that the film often feels at its flattest. He's the more outwardly ruminating intellectual, always approaching things with a contemplative thought, and it often feels like the film is struggling to maintain a deep thought, as if in fear of being mocked for being nothing less than poetic. Maybe that's the way the character is supposed to be, but all his affectations get tiring. He comments on Eucalyptus trees being so totally unique, how each one has its own shape and definition and being unlike the other one, and as truthful as it might be, it's just a comment that leaves you thinking 'And?' At other times the exchanges of these characters are scintillating, as when an innocuous pit-stop at a café becomes changes the gears of their relationship, and Binoche begins to furiously criticise his cool, charming bullshit-masquerade. The dialogue operates in these two modes, between fascinating and questionable, but never really finds its footing.

Abbas Kiarostami is clearly a man who knows exactly what he wants to do and how to do it, and at the jolly age of 74 all the wisdom and joy and despair he must have accumulated in his lifetime can be felt here, in the vivaciousness and the bitterness of the characters, in the way a camera can just sit and stay trained for minutes on end and let the people unfurl themselves, but sometimes it feels like all he is trying to much to do justice to all his collected experience in life. There's a shot toward the end with our couple standing in a courtyard together and just in front of them is a far older couple, man and wife, standing on the same side of each other, tentatively walking and supporting each other. The imagery is obvious but the connotations are beautiful, and it's the sort of a shot that could only have worked as aposiopesis to the journey preceding it. (Maybe that is the point)

So there was an ambivalence I felt throughout the film, but it's hard to dismiss something this lovingly made, as an expression of the melancholy of our relationships in life. There's a blustery and picturesque feel throughout this Italian journey that is hard to argue with.
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Ambiguous, talky
bandw8 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
There is no action except talking, unless you figure that two people getting in and out of a car is action. The movie is essentially one long conversation between James and a women, billed as "Elle" (Juliette Binoche). James is an art historian and Elle is an antique dealer specializing in art. James has just written a book, "Certified Copy" which asks why good reproductions should not be equally as valuable as originals. The book appears to be one of those that takes an idea of some merit and intellectualizes it to death, like asking if an original of anything exists, or if we are only DNA reproductions of our parents, or if a tree is not to be considered an original work of art? The conversation struck me as only a slight cut above what you might hear in a typical college dorm.

Halfway through we are thrown a curve ball. While at a restaurant James steps out to take a phone call during which the proprietor dispenses wisdom to Elle about male/female relationships, like how a wife should be happy that her husband works, since work is necessary for a man, allowing the wife to live her own life. The proprietor mistakes Elle and James for husband and wife and Elle does not dispute that assumption. From here on I was left to deduce whether James and Elle had known each other in the past and were play-acting at the beginning, or weather they had just met and were play-acting after James' return to the restaurant.

Perhaps a point is being made about the relationship between perception and reality, or that maybe perception *is* reality. There was a scene between Elle and her young son Julien in a café where he asks her why James did not sign his book using Julien's surname. This question so upsets Elle that she runs out of the café. I thought that there must be some significance in that scene. Does James have an alias with the same surname as Julien? Is James Julien's father out of wedlock? I could not ultimately make any reasonable inferences about this scene, though I feel it is of importance. In the end I found the message being delivered, if there is one, so muddled that I lost patience in trying to figure it out.

I found James to be a cynical, pretentious, obnoxious, and petulant pedant. The main positive is Juliette Binoche who is almost always worth watching no matter what movie she is in. While her performance is not without interest here, it was not enough to save the day for me. The production values are high and there are some nice scenes of the Tuscany countryside.
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great Kiarostami deja vu
iegg447 July 2010
If you have seen Under The Olive Tree, Kiarostami's master piece from 1994, you might find Certified Copy to be the continuation 25 years later on a different continent. Here he left Iran for Western Europe because Binoche could not have done this in Iran. A twisted, touching, thoughtful relationship story that plays with what is a copy and what is an original, what is reality and what is imagination. Beautifully filmed and Binoche is at her best. The many languages spoken between the protagonists - none from Iran - just confirmed for me the many levels of a relationship, the confusion and misunderstandings you are confronted with, no matter where you are. Definitely worth seeing and talking about with intelligent friends.
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Romantic comedy Kiarostami-style
kepotaz28 June 2010
If you're familiar with the movies of Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, this is a big departure from his usual work. Shot in Italy with Juliette Binoche and some dude, it's basically a romantic comedy, but nothing like Hollywood would ever produce (well, it actually reminds a little bit of Before Sunset by Richard Linklater, but miles away from the Julia Roberts/Sandra Bullock avenue).

It's really enjoyable with unexpected progress of the story (unexpected especially if you're brainwashed by certain type of movies about male-female relationships). It has room for interpretation, everything is not explained and it lets the viewer bind the remaining threads. It's also funny and I found it quite intense. It held my attention and actually felt about ten minutes shorter than it really is. I have to admit that I'm a big fan of intelligent movies about male-female relationships. Long well written and acted scenes with just a man and a woman talking don't turn me off.

The formal control of the shots by the director and the cinematographer are masterful. There are those long shots that Kiarostami has used before, but used masterfully in the context of the story, and not in any "look at me, Mom, I'm sculpting in time" -art house tedium.

I talked with couple other persons who saw the movie, and they said that they didn't like it. But let me tell you that it's really good.
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Tough love
pheisbourg10 June 2010
Euro intellectual recession-time story? I recommend Copie Conforme because of and in spite of the difficulty in watching it. The difficulty resides in the multiple layers involved in the relationship of the two protagonists, not to speak of the three languages that they both speak in various circumstances. The more the the action evolves, the less we seem to understand the real nature of their relationship. What we do know is that those two have a problem of communication. It is this struggle of seduction/rejection, with setbacks and all that make it worth watching. Atmosphere and the man-woman tension is what keeps it going. The filming is impeccable, with lovely scenes of Tuscany, excellent camera, and the great work on surrounding noises, which I believe replaces any music at all. The acting is also very fine, with Binoche deservedly getting a major Cannes Film Festival award.
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Certified Copy is the real thing.
Faizan29 December 2010
"Certified Copy" is a film of great beauty and mystery. The first thing that strikes you about it is how real it feels. Not just its plot, not just the acting, but also the dialogs - they are laced in the anguish, hope, fears, disappointments and joys of the life we all live, everyday. To try to explain what the film is about it to rob it of its sense of poetic irony but all you need to know about it is that it revolves around two people who strike up a conversation after meeting in picturesque Tuscany. Binoche plays the part of a woman, apparently a single mother, who owns a small antiques store. She meets a visiting British writer, James Miller (opera star William Shimell, in his debut) who is there promoting his new book, a treatise on copies in the art world. The two decide to meet later for a discussion dinner, but what at first seems like mundane musings on the every day quickly takes a turn when it appears to us that the two are familiar to each other and perhaps even might have met. We are never told, not directly at least, whether this is the case, but numerous hints are dropped; a joke that Miller shares for instance than Binoche seems to have heard before, then an anecdote that is all too familiar to her and which can relate to, about the replica (or copy!) of the David statue outside the Academia in Florence. Dialogues therefore drive the film. Binoche's description of her sister and her problems with stammering are so succinct, so clairvoyant that when we almost feel we know her as well and later in the film, when Binoche uses the pseudo stammering 'J-J-J-James', it tells you so much about her. If you listen carefully to the dialogs and are intent on picking up inflections, body language and facial expressions the film is richly rewarding.

Credit for this greatly goes to director Abbas Kiarostami for his use of formalism combined with minimalism and tight framings. Let's just say he knows where to place his camera and what to get out of his actors. His closeups of the faces of his two leads is both intrusive and revelatory. In the finest example of this, and in an outstanding unbroken single take, he lingers on the beautiful, ever luminous face of Binoche as she powders her face and applies her lipstick. Ordinarily the scene should have been inconsequential, but in the scheme of things it is both a private moment with the character that Binoche plays and fine testament of Binoche's ability. She is outstanding throughout - shifting from one extreme to the other, crying and laughing, sometimes at the same time. In the films most heartbreaking scene, she asks Miller if he noticed whether she dressed up for him that day. When he answers that he didn't she responds by telling him how she was able to pick up the scent of his new perfume. This might be nothing more than the deconstruction of all cross gender relationships, yet we learn so much about both of them while being kept at a distance. Because we can only infer what is going on, but still not be entirely sure about it, the film envelops us into its puzzle completely. At a time when many directors, most film and almost all actors are stuck doing the same things, "Certified Copy" feels like the real thing.
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Faithful Copy of a Romantic Comedy and Long-Term Marriage
claudio_carvalho7 November 2012
In Tuscany, a French woman (Juliette Binoche) arrives in a lecture room to see the middle-aged British writer James Miller (William Shimell), who has published a book about the validity of copies versus original works. However, her son forces her to leave the lecture early and she gives her phone number to a common friend to give it to James.

He comes to her antique shop and invites her to drive around. However, she takes James to the village of Lucignano. While they are traveling, he autographs six books she had bought and they discuss the subject of his book. When they arrive in the village, they are mistakenly taken as husband and wife and the woman decides to play the game and soon the bitter James Miller assumes the role of her husband.

I am not a fan of Abbas Kiarostami, but I see his movies since they are usually challenging and open to interpretations. I have just seen "Copie Conforme" on DVD and I have my understanding of the story that may be or may be not the real intention of this Iranian writer / director.

Juliette Binoche's character definitely knows James Miller and there are evidences: first, she has a reserved spot in his lecture; then her son comments that she had decided to fall in love with the British writer; last, when James arrives in her antique shop, they do not introduce themselves to each other and they are not too formal as strangers certainly would be.

I believe that James Miller first met her years ago while she was walking on street with her son following her but never together. She probably would be a single mother with rejection to her son and on that occasion they might have become lovers or they had at least a love affair in the hotel that they visit in the end but James probably would be married.

They travel to the romantic village of Lucignano and they have a long discussion about copies and originals art works. When the owner of the cafeteria believes that they are married, the French woman plays games with James Miller pretending that they have been married for fifteen years, probably because she might have wanted to be his wife in the past. In the end, there is a parallel with the central subject of the story, copies vs. originals, and the drama turns into a faithful copy of a romantic comedy with a long-term marriage. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil):"Cópia Fiel ("Faithful Copy")
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My 379th Review: Neither loved it or hated it: more intrigued
intelearts3 March 2011
All reviewers so far have either opted for 8 or 2. That is a sure sign that something is going on, I am willing to risk flack from all sides and say that Cerified Copy is was it is: a look at how we layer our relationships, an hour and forty minutes of conversations, broken with moments of silence and walking, and about two people who may or may not be in a some sort of relationship or connection.

It has originality - it will not be like other films seen recently in mainstream European cinema, there is little or no plot, or action, rather we dealing with conversation, and the state of the heart and the mind in a fiercely non-Hollywood fashion. This is a film about thinking about emotions, and is almost non-linear in its conversations and if that concept doesn't appeal then it may well not be viewable.

It is, however, despite itself, pretty mesmerizing - what will they say next? what other aspect of why relationships fail and succeed will be tossed into the salad? who are they? why the games? etc;

The conversations are both alienating and intimate, and have a "play-acting" aspect that allows the psychosexual aspect of how we adults explore potentiality to be examined in a way that is normally reduced to sexual tension and flirting on film. This is a film that demands attention - this is not dumb film-making. I recognize the conversations and the feeling well, but in a sense the connection is too contrived to be really successful - but it certainly touches that part of intimacy that is normally, at best, ethereal.

The setting of Chianti and a beautiful hot summer day, with cicadas and a wonderful small town to explore, lightens this - but it remains a film for philosopher romantics. It is, as others here have noted in better ways than me, film as film - here there are images and shots that work to compliment the alienation and solipsistic nature of the two leads.

A film about questions that offers few answers, it is certainly intriguing and if you are into human exploration and condition worth the effort to watch.
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Movie that can break your dreams
mundoexcelente7 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
So it goes like this...My parents have quarreled as always. My boyfriend is on the other part of the world and I haven't seen him for a month (5 more to go). OK, so I'm sitting in my room and pitying myself as good as I can. And along came...no, not Polly. Along came 'Certified Copy'.

Couple of things to consider before watching the movie (I wish someone's told me those). If you're looking for a French romantic comedy in style of 'Jet Lag'(starring Binoche and Reno),don't count on this one. Get ready to struggle through the first 40 minutes of the movie. It may seem boring even for those who are interested in art. Why? 'Cause it's not about art as you'll discover later.

I have to give credit to Abbas Kiarostami for that plot twist that finally brought the story line to life. At the end you even start to appreciate that first part which seemed to be meaningless.

So it's not about art. The subject is trivial and eternal - relationship between husband and wife. The whole plot could be put in one line - here's what almost every couple will be after 15 years of marriage. And no matter what she does, no matter how hard she tries to recreate the past full of happy illusions, he still has to catch his train at 9 o'clock.

In the course of the movie you keep stumbling across happy newlyweds here and there. However, seeing the protagonists at the same time, you do realize that not many of those married couples will grow old together sweetly holding hands everywhere they go.

For many people everything written above is obvious 'cause they've already lived through this and have come to terms with the fact that there's no eternal love and the marriage ceremony is much more beautiful than the marriage itself. However, if you're in your early 20's and everyone around you keeps saying: 'Stop dreaming, this is real life, wake up!' But you remain stubborn and say: 'No, I can do better than that. I'll find my real love and I'll treat it with care'.

After watching this movie you may think: 'Well, it's time to admit everything they've told me is true'. And that's when you grow up.
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Great movie once you understand the plot
jmc476919 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I have seen the movie twice and here is my interpretation of the plot.

Fifteen years before the start of the movie, the woman played by Juliette Binoche and James have an affair. They live in France. James is probably married since she sees her relationship with him as a "certified copy," not an original like his relationship with his wife. They go on a holiday to Tuscany, staying at the hotel shown at the end of the movie. The night before the day shown in the movie is the 15th anniversary of their first night there. Her son is conceived early in the relationship. Although they never marry, the affair lasts at least a year or two. After the breakup, James abandons his son.

Five years before the start of the movie, without telling James, she moves to Florence. By coincidence James visits the city shortly afterward. He happens to see her and the boy walking past his hotel window, but he doesn't recognize her. Later in the piazza, he notices her again—she is looking at a statue with the boy. Although James still doesn't recognize her, he is struck by the fact that the boy apparently loves the statue, a copy, just as much as if it were the original. This gives him the idea for a book about certified copies in art. The central theme of the book is that a copy can be just as good in some ways as the original, as evidenced by the subtitle: "Forget the original, just get a good copy."

The book is published a few months before the movie begins. She discovers the book in a bookstore and buys several copies. By this time she has moved from Florence to a town near the place where she and James vacationed 15 years earlier. She runs a local antique shop. After she hears that James is visiting her town to lecture about his new book, she contacts him to see if they might meet. Apparently they haven't seen each other in many years.

He plans to arrive the evening before his lecture, and they agree that she will meet him at his hotel. While James considers their affair to be a long-ago closed chapter in his life, her feelings for him are as strong as ever. On their "15th anniversary" she is hoping to rekindle their relationship, both romantically and sexually. But James isn't so enthusiastic. Not only does he arrive late, but he falls asleep while she is freshening up in the bathroom. Finding him asleep on the bed, she leaves and returns home.

The next morning she attends the lecture but has to leave early to get the boy something to eat. Before leaving she passes a note to James asking him to meet her at her shop after the lecture. At the restaurant, she gives the boy a book she got James to autograph, and the boy teasingly asks why she got James to write only his first name. The fact that her son had to take her last name because he was born out of wedlock is such a painful subject for her that she has to leave the table.

Later when James arrives at her shop, they act almost like strangers because they haven't seen each other in years. They apparently spoke only a few words the night before. For the moment she overlooks his rude behavior at the hotel, hoping to salvage what she can of her original plans. James suggests an afternoon ride in the country before he catches his nine o'clock train. She says, "I'll take you to a place that you might find interesting," meaning the town where they stayed 15 years earlier.

As they drive through the countryside, they start arguing about his book. From the outset it is clear that she doesn't agree with his main point. Although it seems that they are discussing art, she is really talking about their relationship. She tells him that she doesn't like copies (she never wanted their relationship to be a facsimile of the real thing). But he tells her that he thinks copies are just fine.

When they arrive at their destination, they stop at a coffee shop. She asks how he got the idea for the book. When he begins to tell her about the woman in Florence, she realizes that it was her, and at the same time she thinks, "How could you not recognize me?" Once James sees the tears in her eyes, he slowly starts to comprehend his mistake in Florence but doesn't openly acknowledge this fact to her.

After James takes a call, perhaps from his wife, Binoche says that the woman behind the counter mistook them for a married couple. As they leave the shop, they fall into a game of pretending to be married. She uses the role-playing as a way to voice her complaints to James. She tells him how difficult and frustrating it is to be a single parent. Later when they stop at a restaurant, she talks about how he hurt her feelings the night before. At this point James is fed up with the game and yells at her, even telling her that he hates her after they leave the restaurant.

They wander through the streets and end up at the hotel where they had stayed so many years before. As they sit on the front steps of the hotel, he apologizes for "fifteen years ago and five years ago". She softens and becomes more flirty. She suggests that they go look at the room where they stayed. She remembers every detail about their holiday, but James doesn't recognize the hotel or the view outside the room window. Hoping to seduce him, she lies on the bed and asks him to stay with her. Instead he goes to the bathroom to freshen up as the bell outside the window rings eight times.
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very deep and thought provoking
ammar-lilamwala13 September 2010
I must say that I am a big Juliette binoche fan. She has a very lovable appearance on screen and she is such a wonderful actress. The movie is pretty slow paced but there is enough going on to keep the viewer engrossed. The movie deals with the incredibly complicated relationship between the two protagonists. The script has been written masterfully and the more number of times you watch the movie the better you understand the skill gone into making this movie.

The male protagonist is a writer and is in Tuscany to promote the Italian version of his new book about art both copied and original. Juliette Binoche's character is interested in the book and invites the writer over. The story unfolds from there on as we see the complicated relationship between this man and woman revealed.

All in all a very good movie and definitely worth a watch.
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One Of The Best Films I Have Ever Seen!
zhenyajones30 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is film is definitely worth seeing if you are ready to confront your own personal -love - daemons.

I won't go summarize the plot of the film, since previous reviewers have done it already. But what I will tell you is what this film is really about and why should anyone spend 1 hour and 46 minutes to see it. (It is interesting though that many reviewers approach this mesmerizing film in so many different ways.)

In my opinion, this film is about love relationships and our copies of them: how we form them, what we expect, what we get and where things could possibly reach a dead-end. When I say copies of relationships I don't mean extra-marital affairs, I mean ALL romantic relationships.

We begin a relationship by falling in love with the copy of the other person; the one we form in our minds, our idealized notion of him or her. We, then, dive into a relationship by first making a copy of its supposed present and supposed future in our own heads: how it should go, what would be great, what should bring us happiness etc. The years pass and we still live with this copy of a relationship, but yet we are not happy as we have been taught that only the original is the one that matters. But then again, reality can kill love very quickly and the romance can get out the window before we know it.

One moment that I believe is crucial to my viewpoint is at the beginning: the scene were the two protagonists are in the car (and it is repeated at the end in another form) is when Elle mentions how her sister, Mary, loves copies and that although her sister's husband stutters, her sister finds it very romantic the way her husband calls her: "MMM MM Mary"

That is probably something that most viewers will not give it the attention it deserves. I think this little part of a scene shows what, in my opinion, Kiarostami is really trying to say in the whole film: If you want to live in a happy love relationship and be happy with your partner.. Then, accept that you fell in love with your own copy of your partner, you are living with your own copy of your relationship, you acknowledge that this is your own copy, and at the same time you admire it for being a copy in your mind - In a "The beauty is in the eye of the beholder" kind of way..

We could never fall in love without the copies each of us create in our heads, so what could we do? Acknowledge and Embrace them!

It is true I fell for the trap to analyze what is going on between the two protagonists.. Are they flirting? Do they know each other? Did the have a relationship? Is the kid his? Are they married?

But I soon realized this was not the point. Most films that leave loose ends, usually 'demand' from us to analyze the plot and the characters, if we want to uncover what could really be the ending. But this film is different and it demands you will find the answers in your life and your romantic relationships, not in the plot or characters.

I must give merit to both protagonists for their playing, they were both great. Binoche plays the woman as a universal stereotype and Shimell plays the man as a universal stereotype . Binoche is the emotional person in the relationship and Shimell is the intellectual one. I can see why most people praise Binoche and they don't like Shimell, as emotional reactions more immediate to understand than intellectual ones. Binoche is indeed wonderful and I couldn't agree more that maybe this is one of the best roles she has ever played. However, I enjoyed Shimell as well, as he was outstanding in his role. He could communicate with his face, body positions and gestures what he was thinking, which if you ask me is much harder for an actor to do. The intellectual personality has a more limited palette of emotional expressions (NOT feelings!Don't get me wrong!) than an emotional one.

Photography and location of the film are outstanding.

I didn't know Kiarostami before this film, but let me tell you he's just got one more fan.

See it: 1. if you liked "Before the Sunrise" type of films, 2. if you love Binoche 3. if like films that give you an intellectual challenge to deal with

Do NOT see it: 1. if you like films where the plot moves quickly 2. if you are used to and like made-in-Hollywood romance movies 3. if you don't like reading subtitles (3 languages are spoken in the film)

My rating is 9 out of 10
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No redeeming features
chrisinaus26 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This review may contain spoilers, but as there is no actual plot to the movie I'm not sure how I could spoil it for anyone.

Two characters spend a day together somewhere in Tuscany. They wander around, encounter people getting married and reflect on love and marriage. The problem is that the dialogue is a string of pseudo- philosophical meaningless babble. This undermines the believability of the film, a problem which only worsens as the relationship and history between the two characters seems to change with each passing scene. Are they strangers? Lovers? Husband and wife? Try as I might, I could not seem to care.

Juliette Binoche gives a performance which seems like someone in an acting class trying out different emotions. When tears roll down her face in a coffee shop it is the least moving scene I have ever seen her in. It seems to come out of context. Her windy interlocutor, played gracelessly by William Shimell, has said something which has raised high emotion in her. Since we neither know nor care about the characters at this stage, the effect is lost.

It takes a lot to make me leave a movie before the end. Forgive me if the last 5 minutes were brilliant, but by that time I had had enough of this pretentious boring nothing of a film.
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Let's Pretend ... to Pretend
ferguson-614 April 2011
Greetings again from the darkness. OK, I feel terrible. This movie is a darling of the critics. Juliette Binoche won the highest acting award at Cannes for her performance. It's the first film from outside of Iran by legendary writer/director Abbas Kiarostami (Under the Olive Tree). It is a technical masterpiece filled with various philosophies on art, love and life. It's filmed in one of the most beautiful, historic areas in the world. The one thing it didn't do very well was capture my interest. I know ... I feel terrible.

In my defense, this is a very odd film. Is it about two people courting each other? Is it about two people role-playing? Is it about two people trying to re-capture or deflect a previous relationship? Is it all of those things? To make matters worse, it plays a bit like a grown-up "Before Sunrise" or "Before Sunset". Brace yourself ... I didn't much like either of those Richard Linklater classics. Again, I feel terrible.

Pretty much everything I have to say about this movie is positive. Ms. Binoche is outstanding and captivating. William Shimell is a long way from his British Opera fame, but does an admirable job as the less-than-enchanting writer and object of Ms. Binoche's attention. The quaint Tuscan town of Lucignano comes off beautifully as the locale that newlyweds flock to for romance. The sound editing is spectacular: birds chirping and flapping, water dripping from fountains, footsteps clattering ... all of these make up the realistic backdrop for the barrage of verbal tangling. Even the camera work is expert. Sometimes we are POV with our characters, while other times we are the eyes unto which they gaze. Both effects are startling.

All those pieces are very well done and technically expert. The two characters are interesting enough on their own, but the "story" or approach of having these two play-pretend just didn't grab me. Yes, Yes, Yes ... I feel just terrible about it.
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"Certified Copy" is an original work of art
napierslogs15 June 2011
Discussions on art, on the interpretations of art, and on the value of copies of original art. Discussions on relationships, marriage, and on the types of individuals it takes to enter into one. Discussions on what is truth, what can be left up to the viewer's imagination, and what really matters. "Certified Copy" is all of that.

James Miller (William Shimmel) is an art historian with a book that declares copies that are just as good as the original piece of art should have just as high a value. A woman (Juliette Binoche) is very interested in his book, but seeing as she disagrees with his point of view, perhaps it's just him that she's interested in. From there we get a relationship that is completely open to the viewer's interpretation of it.

One of the great things of the study of art is that good pieces can mean something different to somebody else. This film not only discusses that, but embraces it and embodies it. Nature does not produce two identical Cypress trees, and I have not found two identical theories to explain this film. Although not to scare off viewers, most theories have a lot in common and I had arrived at my current one at the beginning of the film. Nothing may not be definitive in it, but it can certainly be understood and explained any number of ways.

Every discussion the filmmaker has in this film relates back to the plot and the main characters' relationship. Your opinions can evolve just as the characters do and their relationship does. Not only was I awe-struck by the visual set-ups and locations for each scene, but also the dialogue-driven set-ups for the characters. I quickly got a handle on what these two people were like based on how they talked and how they talked about other people. Interestingly, how they talked to each other just made their relationship more enigmatic.

"Certified Copy" is an impressive, well written film. It can be enjoyed for its philosophical discussions, for its unravelling of a relationship, and for its subjective plot. I have not seen anything like it and yet it must just be a copy of Richard Linklater and even David Lynch films that came before it. But I will regard it just as highly.
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Platitudes in three languages
barbara-czarniawska4 February 2011
I tend to stay away from movies that have something to do with Tuscany, because bitter experiences have taught me that their directors (with some notable exceptions, such as Tom Tykwer) assume that the rolling hills of the Tuscan landscape compensate for lack of anything else: plot, humor, etc. But it was my affection for Juliette Binoche that made me ignore this obvious danger. And here I was, listening to platitudes mouthed in three languages (one has to admit that, according to all stereotypes, the Italian were the worst), the growing irritation preventing me from falling asleep. Juliette Binoche plays a hysterical woman (as Siri Hustvedt told us, the adjective is back in use), with volatile moods, shouting at her son, the only attractive character in the whole movie. Whatever happened to her, it must have been wholly deserved. It is also interesting that all the raving, positive reviews on IMDb were written by men ... The title is correct, though. Whether the relationship thus portrayed was an original or a copy, it was equally uninteresting!
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Dreary Dreadful Movie
johnaparks11 April 2011
Sadly this is a poorly paced and self-consciously filmed bore. The camera trails around after a middle aged couple engaged in an endlessly dreary conversation about life, relationships, art and philosophy. It's a conversation almost entirely devoid of wit, originality or interest. Binoche acts away desperately but it's not enough to save the sinking ship. The movie making is based on endlessly insistent close-ups and overly dark contrast. It's so annoying that you want to wrench the camera out of the operators hands and point it anywhere else except on the faces of the protagonists. After watching movies for forty years I rate this as one of the five worst of all time. Avoid it at all costs.
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Certified Copy (2010)
lasttimeisaw31 May 2011
20 hours ago, I just finished this film, here is what I was thinking: I was unsuccessful to feign that I love this film even though I had tried rather hard during its duration. The inconsistent parts - coincidently I completely this film in two days, which baffled me on the second day, I had to go backward the DVD to check if I had missed something, how come all of a sudden the two strangers became so intrigued to the fictional role-playing game? - is beyond any interpretation.

Now 20 hours has passed, I start to write my review of this film with my afterthought, I figure out that the whole shift began from the little mistake made by the shopkeeper of the bar. Relating to the discussion of original versus copy and the title itself, the consequential husband-and-wife acting could be conveniently associated, the writer himself is a perfect copy of the woman's ex-husband, thus, straightaway, everything becomes lucid and I commence to appreciate this film in a different point of view.

One cannot be unaware of the film's distinctive shots, which largely focus on the main characters accompanying with other trivial characters' natural existence in the background, anyway it effectively attenuates the blandness and the camera precisely captures all the subtlest expressions (mainly facial) from the two leads.

As a conversation-crammed two-hander, comparison with Richard Linklater's BEFORE SUNRISE (1995) / BEFORE SUNSET (2004) is spontaneously unavoidable, frankly speaking I prefer Linklater's oeuvres, by comparison, Abbas' film is insufficiently based on a sole idea (a marvelous one though), when you pass the aftershock/confusion, what the two leads are discussing doesn't give much impression on a general level, still, I am not denying the performances here, Binoche's Canne's winning last year is praiseworthy, as for the first-timer William Shimell (a world-famous British baritone), not a groundbreaking debut but also nothing to complain, he seems just be right for his role, that's all.

I haven't watched many Abbas' masterpieces, which might also impede my dedication and judgement, I shall try to squeeze a chance to re-watch it, perhaps until then, I will be able to be more unprejudiced and unambiguous.
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Worst film I have watched in years
jgmcnair21 January 2011
My wife and I sat down to watch this with high expectations, within 10 mins we asking what is this all about. Story was so slow and disjointed. I started looking at the scenery to try and put the time in, didn't want to disappoint my good lady as it was her choice of film. we perservered hoping and hoping it would improve but alas no. It just moved from one mediorce section to another. My wife put on a brave act trying to enjoy it but told our teenager daughters today it was the worst film she had ever seen. we had hoped for a enjoyable night in as we don't get an opportunity to relax often It was painful to watch, truly awful - a complete disaster
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