What does authenticity mean? Is a copy as valuable as an original? Acclaimed Iranian director Abba Kiarostami poses these questions in his latest film, “Certified Copy,” playing Saturday, April 16, and Sunday, April 17, at the Capawock Theatre in Vineyard Haven.
French actor Juliette Binoche, who built her reputation on films like “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” “The English Patient,” “Blue,” and more recently, “Caché” and “Flight of the Red Balloon,” won the 2010 Cannes Best Actress award for her portrayal of Elle, the nameless woman in “Certified Copy.”
She plays an antiquities dealer whose shop in Tuscany is full of sculpture copies. The single mother of a 10-year-old son, she goes to hear a lecture by British art historian James Miller, played by opera baritone William Shimell.
Miller has written a book, “Certified Copy,” and makes the argument that copies have merit equivalent to an original. In fact, he wanted to call his book “Forget the Original, Just Get a Good Copy.”
Before long, he and Elle are taking a romantic drive through the dazzling Tuscan countryside on their way to the village of Lucignano. Like the Vineyard, this quaint little town is a popular wedding destination.
“Certified Copy” was not available to this reviewer before publication, but critics like Stephen Holden of The New York Times and a number of other critics have pointed out that director Kiarostami has virtually duplicated scenes from Roberto Rossellini’s 1954 film “Journey to Italy,” starring Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders.
In addition, the movie incorporates many other homages to classic European directors of the 50s and ’60s — Michelangelo Antonioni, Alain Resnais — and to more recent films like Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset.” Images of mirrors recur, as well as reflections on auto windshields (Kiarostami frequently films his characters inside cars).
Is Kiarostami just playing intellectual games with the viewer? Some reviewers have thought so, while others simply label “Certified Copy” a charming romantic fable or a talky, conventional romantic comedy. Subtle pointers in the film suggest the couple knew each other before their current liaison, so they are maybe re-enacting an earlier time.
“Certified Copy” is Kiarostami’s first film not set in Iran, and judging from the caliber of his best earlier films, like “Taste of Cherry,” “Through the Olive Trees,” and “The Wind Will Carry Us,” he is too fine a director to discount.
In an era when biological researchers explore the possibilities of cloning and DNA duplication, TV audiences enjoy reality shows, literary memoirs get forged, and the age-old issue of whether art is imitating life, “Certified Copy” promises to bring up an intriguing array of quandaries. I am looking forward to seeing it and hope you are, too.
“Certified Copy,” Saturday, April 16, 4 and 7:30 pm and Sunday, April 17, 4 and 7 pm, Capawock Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $7. For more information, call 508-627-6689.