May 22, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 07 April 2011 11:01
With spring (hopefully) nearing, movie theaters are warming up with interesting movies from around the world. This week The Reel Dad takes a look at a new film from France, Certified Copy, starring Academy Award Winner Juliette Binoche.We never really know, in the marvelous new film, Certified Copy, what is the original and what may be a forgery. That’s the focus of the discussion of art in the movie as well as, surprisingly, the examination of relationships that flow from those conversations. This rich examination of what is real and what is fake results in one of the most satisfying movie experiences in recent months, with an Oscar-worthy performance from the lovely Juliette Binoche.
As the film opens, Binoche — playing an art dealer in a small town in Italy — attends a lecture by William Shimell who portrays an author exploring the balance between originality and fabrication in art. We quickly learn that Binoche is mother to a young boy who loves fast food, keeps a less-than-clean automobile, and tends to ramble when she talks. We also see, quickly, her attraction to Shimell as she offers to show him the countryside one day before he departs for his next destination.
This framework prompts a most entertaining, and enlightening, examination of what truth must exist between people. Does it really matter what past encounters these characters may actually share? Or is it enough for them to discover, together, in the present? How do people hide, rewrite and avoid confronting their mutual history? And what, ultimately, defines how people connect? Is it what they experience today or what they may (or may not) share in collective memory? Just as in art, what is an original relationship and what is a forgery?
Certified Copy examines these compelling issues in the leisurely manner we associate with films from France. Had this been an American film we would, instead of the exquisite Binoche, been forced to tolerate a Reese Witherspoon or, worse, a Carmen Diaz, examining the same considerations within a sitcom sensibility that most American films follow. Certified Copy avoids such predictable outcomes by veering away from the expected at every turn. Director Abbas Kiarostami permits the conversations to slowly evolve, the camera to linger on an actor’s face for delayed, natural reactions, and for scenes to linger beyond the point when most might yell, “cut.” He lets us get to know these complex characters without settling for the expected shortcuts that American films rely upon.
Binoche is a revelation. She slowly reveals the layers of her character in small gestures and glances as she refuses to let us observe the immense acting skill that creates such spontaneity. In a film that explores the reality of art, her reality is that a consummate artist can create truth when she begins with truth. Nothing about her presence, beauty or magnetism is Hollywood artificial. She creates a distinct character, leading to explosive humorous and dramatic moments, by authentically focusing on what truth this woman may experience or invent. That we never quite know what is real in her relationships is precisely what this brilliant actress intends. She captures the ambiguity of life by carefully exposing the ambiguity of her art.
Certified Copy will likely never find the large movie audience that any by-the-numbers action film can easily attract. But few current offerings compare for the discriminating viewer who wants to see a thoughtful film. This is a meaningful movie experience for anyone who believes the value of cinema art lies in the experience it creates for the viewer. And it is a true original, not a forgery.
* Content: High. On the surface, we can enjoy a delightful day with an interesting couple. When we are invited to look beneath the surface, we experience much more.
* Entertainment: High. For a film that is, essentially, an extended conversation between two adults, the entertainment value is high, thanks to the sharp dialogue and precise performances.
* Message: Medium. The parallels to art theory can be interesting but what really works is how the relationship evolves between the two leads. Or does it?
* Relevance: High. Any opportunity to share time with adults on screen who talk like adults, without the need for a car chase or explosion, provides relevant entertainment.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: Medium. The opportunity for discussion between adults can be high; older children may get restless as the onscreen conversation continues.
(Certified Copy does not have an MPAA rating. It has some mild language. The film runs 106 minutes.)
3-1/2 Popcorn Buckets
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