certified copy. (movie notes).
I had heard of the director Abbas Kiarostami, but had never seen his films before. Certified Copy promised Juliette Binoche and the golden sunlit landscape of Tuscany, and since I love both of the above I knew I would see this one.
A man is giving a presentation of his new book. A woman arrives, late, with a preteen son in tow. The son is restless, bored, hungry, that dangerous combination every parent is familiar with, and they leave, after the woman hands a note to the man sitting next to her. Later, the man (the writer) finds her in a shop, and their story begins. They are strangers, or so it seems. They converse in English, with the polite words of people who are getting to know each other, as she drives through the countryside. They walk through the cobbled streets of an old town, look at art, drink coffee. Are they flirting with one another? Perhaps. And then the story takes a turn: they are not strangers at all. They are husband and wife.
Suddenly, the dialogue (now mostly in French) is not that of strangers, but of a couple who has been married for a while - fifteen years - and who are not together most of the time. It's never quite clear why they don't live together - part of their argument touches on an earlier car accident, which happened while she was driving home from one city to another, with their son in the car - but then it's not quite clear if this story is a continuation of the first one, or a new story. It's a little like being in a Calvino novel. I'm reminded of that Kieslowski film, The Double Life of Veronique, which splits into two halves as it traces the lives of the two Veroniques, only here you are even less sure of what's happening before you.
The woman, played by Juliette Binoche, isn't necessarily an admirable character. She is capricious, flirty, coy, then needy and almost desperate. But later there's a scene where she and her husband (played by the opera baritone William Shimell, who by the way is incredibly handsome) are arguing over dinner, and you see in her face this remarkable openness. There is something childlike about the way that Juliette Binoche looks into the camera, which has stayed with her throughout her entire career. Childlike is the wrong word, and so is innocent. Defenseless, perhaps. Yes, that's it - she has a way of putting down all her defenses, even when or especially when asking for something she cannot have. Her husband. His arms around her. Him walking beside her, always.