Monday, September 23, 2013

Certified Copy: Cypresses and the Meaning of Art, or Perhaps Not

by Drew Martin
I recently watched Certified Copy by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, which stars Juliette Binoche, and debuts British opera singer William Shimell, who has a Jeremy Irons charm. It is a really interesting film but too much Binoche.

Shimell plays a British writer who has come to Tuscany to discuss his latest book on art, Certified Copy, which, very much like the premise of this blog, addresses issues of authenticity in art and the value of the experience of a copy versus its original. His character’s take is that every reproduction is itself an original, and every original is a copy of someone or something.

Binoche plays a single mom and antiques dealer, with a cool subterranean gallery/shop in the area. The two have a rendezvous, which begins with Shimell signing copies of his book for her, and a slightly prickly conversation about art and life as Binoche drives him around the area.

When Shimell takes a phone call outside a cafe they have arrived at, the old lady waiting on them speaks with Binoche. She assumes he is her husband, and this honest mistake is the moment the intoxication of Kiarostami's script starts to take affect. Shimell becomes a copy of Binoche's absent (or ex-) husband and the interesting philosophical conversation and sight-seeing trip turns into a caustic and stifling relationship that people at their age should be above and beyond.

In the movie stills shown here we see layering of copies. In the top image Binoche and Shimell take in an "original copy," which was thought to be a example of Roman art but was discovered in the 20th to be a forgery. The couple stands side by side. Their image is reflected in the glass, and Binoche's face, shoulders and bust repeat the portrait of the woman.

In the bottom image, our argumentative couple does not see eye to eye over a statue in a small plaza. The sculpted woman leans her head on the man. Binoche likes the monster male protector. Shimell gawks at it as sentimental. In this freeze frame we see the statue physically dividing them, with Shimell on the other side to the right, and a young couple over Binoche's shoulder who mimic the affection displayed in the statue.