Who's In It: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell
The Basics: James Miller (Shimell) recently published a book that is the movie's namesake. It's all about duplications of original pieces of art, and whether or not they have value. This sexy conversation sparks the interest of antique store owner Elle (Binoche), and she makes sure her store address is slipped to James at his book reading. Presumably these people have never met before, and when he shows up at her store, that still seems to be the case. But as she takes him on a tour of the surrounding Italian villages, their conversation becomes more and more intimate, eclipsing what the audience thought they knew about whether or not they are in a relationship. Spoken in three different languages, with various coffee, wine, and bread products consumed by the characters, it satisfies on almost every level.
What's The Deal: Was that summary too vague? Well, so is the film. Director Abbas Kirostami obviously wanted the audience to work for this one, because he doesn't give any clear answers and leaves nearly everything up to interpretation. Films like this stand out like a shiny jewel in a box of coal, and I found myself thinking about the movie long after it had ended. The entire thing centers on the idea expressed in James' book about copies--do they possess a similar value as the original? Are they worthless? Or is value a concept determined by the person considering it, making it completely subjective? As applied to the relationship between James and Elle, is their relationship the original, or a copy they have created? And based on our individual perception of what we're seeing, what did the person sitting next to me in the theater think in comparison to me? Does your brain hurt yet? It won't during the film, because it stars two skilled professionals who are easy on the eyes. You'll be able to focus, I promise.
More Bang For Your Buck: As far as the concept of worth goes, the film also discusses marriage and how we honor each other over time. A conversation between Binoche and an Italian woman in a cafe raises the question of whether genders understand each other at all--Elle is upset that her "husband" is never around and doesn't engage with their son. The sassy Italian barista says that men are built to work, and he's supporting his family. The disgruntled but still lovely Binoche counters by asking what does it matter if he's never home to enjoy it? What you've got here is an enigma tortellini covered in a cerebral sauce, served up on a platter of questions. So much fun!
Let's Hear It For The Boy: After the final confusing shot of the film, as the audience sat in stunned silence, an old man yelled "WHAT!" The entire audience responded with peals of laughter and the stranger next to me asked what I thought. We discussed it as we left the theater, and I continued the conversation with the Movie Buddy I went with. In the end, I tend to believe the point of view expressed in James's book. The movie, their relationship, and the meaning is all in the eye of the beholder.