I’m all for a good love story or two especially when they’re of the unconventional kind. Certified Copy comes to us from famed Iranian filmmaker (and jack of all trades) Abbas Kiarostami. The film stars the very lovely and talented Juliette Binoche (The English Patient, Chocolat) and baritone opera singer, in his big screen debut, William Shimell. The Criterion Collection has seen fit to bring out all the stops with regards to the Blu-ray; it even features one of Abbas Kiarostami’s forgotten films, in its entirety, as part of the supplements package. Seriously, when one of the special features is a feature length film, you’ve already gotten a great start. Let us see if Certified Copy makes the grade.
Certified Copy is Abbas Kiarostami’s take (one of many) on love and all its ambiguity’s from both person’s points of view. Elle (Binoche) seems like a starstruck fan of author James Miller’s (Shimell) work, so she visits him at one of his readings in Tuscany, along with her son in tow. The boy keeps pestering her to leave to due boredom and so she agrees, but not before she leaves her contact information with the organizer, so that Miller may contact her for whatever. She moves fast, right?
Miller gets her note and they meet up in her antique shop where she nervously fidgets and whatnot while they entertain the notion of a “date.” They both agree, but she insists on driving and taking James on an adventure to the countryside. As they drive they muse about everyday topics from the most meaningless dribble to unimportant things like who will he sign the 10 copies of his book that she bought to giveaway to people back home in France. It starts off mundane and trivial, but why wouldn’t it, they’re on a date right? She’s nervous as hell and he’s suave and charming. He’s in total control. Right? Please keep in mind that Certified Copy is a dialogue driven film, but it’s so natural and real that you will not be bored by even the most mundane and trivial of conversations. It’s like real life. Carry on.
Once we get to the halfway point is where things change drastically, because up until that point we thought that these two attractive people were on a casual date, but all is not what it may or may not seem. It’s tricky to try an explain it, but I feel if I do I will be cheating you from one of the most original twists (if you can call it that) I’ve ever seen in a love story-type of film. When we hit that barrier, the tone shifts. Elle, who started off timid and almost neurotic comes off cool, collected, and in control, while Mr. Suave begins to crumble under his own arrogance and ego. The tables get turned so to speak towards the second half of the film.
Juliette Binoche gives a great performance as the vulnerable, but strong willed Elle, while William Shimell, in his debut role, reminds me of Jeremy Irons and an older and more distinguished version of George Clooney. He’s a smooth and intelligent cat whose got all the right moves, but has put up a wall to block his emotions and faults.
As I watched Certified Copy unfold before me, I was reminded of certain parts of my past relationships with women and why they may have failed. It was really strange, because I’ve never been to Tuscany, but was able to identify with several of the themes that were presented in the film. It was real trippy, but then it was also very real to me. It’s like I had a running epiphany once the big reveal happens. I really wish I could “spoil” it for you, but that’s not what I’m here to do. Give Certified Copy a spin on Blu-ray on your own, because I’m sure you’ll be as surprised as I was on how great the film is.
Certified Copy is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are normal for this format. The film was shot in 4K RAW using a RED digital camera, and the entire production was completed in a fully digital workflow. The color grading and digital interpositive were approved by director Abbas Kiarostami and director of photography Luca Bigazzi. The final color-corrected DPX files were output to Rec. 709 high-definition color space for BD and DVD release.
Wow, from the opening frames inside the hall for the book speaking/signing to the outdoor Italian streets and to the countryside, the Blu-ray is demo quality in terms of picture quality. Flesh tones are phenomenal, grain levels remain steady and intact all the way through (even though it was shot in digital), and the color palette is up to snuff. I am planning my trip to Italy as I write this. Softness is never an issue, and contrast levels appear natural, without boosting of any kind. Again, this is DEMO.
Certified Copy features a fully digital 5.1 surround soundtrack. The audio for this release was mastered in 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.
Certified Copy is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1, lossless surround. Here’s a track that is quite peculiar in that it’s a full blown 5.1 track, but there are almost no instances of the film having any LFE to them, with exception to a car engine or something of that nature. That’s why it doesn’t get that extra dog to complete the demo exacta. Still, being near-reference is nothing to scoff at. Dialogue is the star of the show and it comes through loud and epically clear. It’s a front driven sound stage, with lots of ambient sounds that filter out through the rear channels and find their way back to the fronts in an almost 3-D fashion. Lifelike is more like it. It’s like they’re my tour guides throughout the Italian countryside.
Certified Copy has a few extras, but it’s always about quality over quantity in terms of garnering a high rating, in my opinion. There’s a candid interview with director Abbas Kiarostami, a documentary on the making of Certified Copy, with additional interviews by Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, a trailer, and Kiarostami’s rarely seen 1977 film The Report. It’s the inclusion of The Report that propels it to a higher level, nevermind the fact that Criterion found one of the only intact prints available. It may be a little rough, but it’s all we’ve got.
- Director Abbas Kiarostami’s rarely seen 1977 film The Report, which deals with similar themes
- New interview with Kiarostmai
- Let’s See “Copia conforme,” an Italian documentary on the making of Certified Copy, featuring interviews with Kiarostami and actors Juliette Binoche and William Shimell
Unconventional indeed. I watched the film unfold the first time then when I watched it the second time I still had more questions than answers. Whether the questions deserve answers or a third viewing is all up in the air for now. I will say that the direction is assured and the acting is terrific by our stars and even our non-stars and supporting characters that litter the lovely Italian countryside. Dialogue is natural, and as viewers, we feel like flies on the proverbial walls following these people around. The technical specifications on the Blu-ray are outstanding as are the special features. Criterion has another winner on their hands in Certified Copy.
Order Certified Copy on Blu-ray!