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Scenes from a mock marriage

Who's In It: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell

The Basics: Juliette Binoche and opera singer William Shimell (in his first movie role) upend the traditional methods of Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami--most of the time he uses unshowy, non-professional actors--and then they talk away 100 minutes of screen time in an overtly performance-like way. He's a British author and she's his French antique-reproduction-dealing fan, looking to have her half dozen copies of his book signed, maybe more than that. Together they spend a day driving around the countryside, drinking in cafes, watching young couples get married and being mistaken for husband and wife themselves. Though attached to other people, they fall into psychotherapy-style role-playing and spend their day flirting and philosophizing in between soul-baring excavations of regret, sadness, betrayal, boredom and recrimination. Think Before Sunrise but more snobbishly aware of its own fancy pedigree.

What's The Deal: The title of this movie comes from the title of Shimell's character's book, Certified Copy, where he explains that, in art, a copy is as valuable as an original because it still leads you back to its source. So as a day-trip copy of a marriage, this temporary couple acts as a not-exactly-credible simulation of a decade-plus real spousal union. And as a movie itself, it's a way for Kiarostami to lay down some of his usual template of ideas and techniques on top of an old-school European art film, the kind where a man and a woman engage in romantic longing and endless, sometimes pointless conversation. In other words, he's being a total copier himself. As an experiment it works well enough, but it's hard to fight the feeling that by removing himself from the world of his earlier films, he's just sort of goofing around and making us watch.

Worth Seeing Anyway For: Juliette Binoche. Over the course of the film her stalled, needy, unhappy "antiques" dealer is alternately mournfully moving and also a twitchy, insane pain in the ass. If you were trapped with her character in real life on a beautiful Tuscan afternoon, you'd ask her to pull the car over so you could get out and avoid the incessant crazy she keeps spraying all over you. But watching it happen to someone else is kind of fascinating.

Better Kiarostami Movies To Check Out: The Wind Will Carry Us, Taste of Cherry, Through the Olive Trees and Close-Up. This isn't really the one to start with if you've never seen his other movies.


Comments (2)

Shari - 4-09-2011 8:18 AM
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I really hated this bickering film with such annoying characters. Didn't like her from the beginning and grew to dislike him as well. I wouldn't want to have these people as family or neighbors, why would I want to spend 2 hours (only 2 hours?) listening to them bicker.

Pelham - 4-24-2011 3:09 PM
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Like many others, I exited the movie theatre saying Whaaaat...? Others had already left halfway through. The dialogue was too irritating; Shimell should go back to opera where nuanced performances are not required. I was left me concentrating on the ugliness of Binoche's dress. Not flattering and the tatty bra showing was unpleasant.

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