Sunday, 15 July 2012

CERTIFIED COPY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - If you love, or PURPORT to love Abbas Kiarostami, then this movie was made for YOU! The rest of us plebeians can see "Freddy Got Fingered" for the umpteenth time instead.

Certified Copy (2010) dir. Abbas Kiarostami

Starring: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell, Jean-Claude Carrière

**** - for Kiarostami fanatics
** - for everyone else

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I used to have this stock response when people of the beret-adorned-granola-munching-knapsack-wearing-bike-riding-Birkenstock-clumping-persuasion would excitedly ask if I'd seen the latest cinematic Persian snail crawl from the Land of the Aryans.

Staring blankly I'd rudely answer, "Yeah, uh, sorry. I don't do Iranian movies."

This wasn't just a vaguely offensive joke, nor was it merely utilized to get a rise out of the oh-so groovy politically correct types who were inspired to groove on anything from this artist-hating dictatorship (not because the movies were really any good, but because it was the right thing to do).

Deep down, I suspected these poseurs probably detested the drab, dullsville Middle-Eastern depression-fests as much as I did, but simply fooled themselves as much as anyone else into believing they did actually like them. When people of a certain ilk desperately crave to be hip, they need to lie to themselves successfully before growing Pinocchio noses in front of others.

And the reigning Shah of these dismal Iranian affairs was none other than the intelligentsia-embraced Abbas Kiarostami. Critics and other pseuds gushed geysers of laudatory semen and vaginal juices all over this guy's movies.

In fairness to Kiarostami, he was the best of the cerebral lot from Iran and I accepted that some genuine film lovers appreciated his work for the right reasons, but even still, I found watching his movies was a ton of effort for very little payback other than acknowledging how tough it was to make movies in Iran and how truthful he was in light of all the repression over there.

And by-golly-gee, he did it.

He really, really did it.

And the pseuds really, really liked him.

But not this fella.

Now before you accuse me of only liking Michael Bay movies, a perusal of my reviews will demonstrate how much I love many foreign films, art films, slow films, Neo-Realist films, silent films and yes, even Freddy Got Fingered.

I do, in fact, admire, respect and even acknowledge Kiarostami's clear intelligence, distinctive voice and seriousness as an artist.

That doesn't mean I actually like any of his movies, though.

Certified Copy vaguely interested me. Its star was Juliette (Hubba-Hubba) Binoche and it didn't appear to be made in Iran. Two runs on base, for sure, but not fully loaded enough to warrant a grand slam into the stands that would actually get me into a movie theatre to watch it. (And I almost always try to see as much as possible in movie theatres.)

Luckily, a sumptuous Criterion Collection Blu-Ray came along and I finally had some incentive to gird my loins and give this new Kiarostami a whirl.

Well, what I discovered and indeed, have to report is that Certified Copy features first-rate production values, gorgeous scenery and the engaging performances of Juliette Binoche and William Shimell (the opera star in his first movie role), but it's ultimately, pretty much the same old, same old.

The only difference here is that Kiarostami's up to his usual shenanigans in Tuscany instead of Iran.

Two well-dressed rich people, a writer/academic (William Shimell) and an antique dealer (Juliette Binoche), who may or may not be married or who may or may not be having an affair, who may or may not lay eyes upon each other for the first time during a lecture the man may or may not be delivering on his latest book which he may or may not have written in the town hall of Arezzo which apparently does exist, though in this movie, it may or may not.

The woman passes a note to the man and leaves with her son, who may or may not be her son and may or may not even exist. The man finishes the lecture he may or may not have delivered and saunters into the antique shop the woman may or may not own and which may or may not exist.

Here, they talk a lot. This much, we know.

The man announces he must leave town soon, which may or may not be true and that he prefers being outdoors, which may or may not exist. Though he seems pressed for time, he accepts the woman's offer to take him for a drive to a nearby village of artistic and historical significance, which does indeed exist (though as per usual, no guarantees). They get into the woman's car, which may or may not belong to her and during the pleasant ride through the lovely countryside, they talk a lot.

They eventually arrive in Lucignano, a village noted for its art, architecture and beauty, but mostly as a place where - WAIT FOR IT - people flock to in order to get married - it's the Las Vegas of Tuscany.

All round our man and woman are young couples madly in love and on the verge of marrying. The man, during one of their many talks, remarks how foolish these Tuscan does and bucks are and that none of them realize it yet, but that - WAIT FOR IT - love and marriage do not last too far beyond the honeymoon period.

The man and women continue to walk around and talk a lot.

They look at local points of interest and talk a lot.

They settle into a trattoria and, you guessed it, talk a lot.

At this point, I began to wonder:

Why does Abbas Kiarostami bring out the redneck in me?

Ah, but I digress.

So, up to this point, the couple have been strangely snippy and snappy with each other, but in that way in which you know they really enjoy each other's company - if, in fact, they even exist at all in order to enjoy said company, which, as per usual, might not really be happening at all.

Why, after all, should anything happen? It's only a movie.

But then, before you can say "Abbas Kiarostami" fifty times in a row without stopping or stammering, something happens.

Yes, it's true.

Something actually happens.

A brief separation occurs when the man excuses himself to take a cel phone call while the woman remains at the table, when at one point, she sees him - WAIT FOR IT - through - WAIT FOR IT - a glass.

I am not kidding. She/we see him through a - WAIT FOR IT - looking glass, perhaps?

Mais oui.



Their manner with each other immediately morphs into that of a couple who've been together for years and know each other very well. Or, at the very least, there's a sense that they think they know each other well, but perhaps do not.

Gee Willikers!

What cerebral cinematic magic Kiarostami weaves!

Ain't it just the cat's ass!

And guess what?

Wait for it.

They talk a lot.

"Certified Copy" is available on a gorgeous Criterion Collection Blu-Ray edition. The Crown Jewel of this edition is a terrific bonus, Kiarostami's 1977 feature film The Report which has seldom been screened outside of Iran. Kiarostami completists will absolutely need to own this. As per usual, the transfers are outstanding - the picture's been blessed with a high definition digital restoration as well as a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Other items are a documentary on the making of the film, a new interview with Kiarostami and a brand new English translation of the subtitles.