At first, when my friend told me I should spend some time with you, I was nervous. You see, he is a purveyor of obscure cinema, and as much as I love foreign and art house films, sometimes the films he chooses stray into parody. Au hasard Balthazar is the film that comes to mind in that respect.
But, being the omnivorous lover of film that I am, I paid my ten dollars to enter the EU Film Fest at AFI Silver and spent my time with you, and at the end of our time together, I could think only one thing:
I must see you again.
I could tell almost immediately that there was something different about you. Just the look of you struck me as deserving of adoration. And this was just during your opening scene, where James (William Shimell), your primary male lead, was giving a lecture regarding his newly published book about copies in art. Indeed, James’ voice alone was enough for me to find you charming. I felt I could listen to him talk for hours. The inclusion of one of my favorite foreign actresses, Juliette Binoche as Elle, didn’t hurt my opinion of you at all.
As your story, if indeed you could be said to have a story in the traditional sense, progressed, these two spend an afternoon together in a small Tuscan village, discussing the nature of true art, as well as the nature of marriage and love itself.
The manner in which this intellectual and spiritual debate plays itself out before us is gloriously captivating, though it was also the thing that made me the most nervous at first.
You see, Certified Copy, we live in a world of prejudice. And in this world, should you ask someone what a “foreign film” is, they might respond thusly; A series of scenes set in a pretty town where two realistically attractive people have a high-minded conversation about a deep subject.
This is, at its most basic level, what you are. James and Elle move throughout the narrow roads and alleys of the village, often in one extended take, while their discourse moves effortlessly from the subject of marital love to the value of facsimiles in art and from where art derives its power and value. While this may not sound like much, you find ways of using this banal template to your advantage.
First, the quality of your actors. Both imbue their increasingly reality-divorced characters with humanity, which aids in their steady transition into the realm of idealogical archetype. Then, there is your camera, which moves with such precision and naturalism around them. Your writing, too, is engaging. I am still of the opinion that there is nothing better than listening to two intelligent and passionate people debate their ideals in a cogent way. Except maybe for being one of those people.
But your final charm, Certified Copy, is in the strange dynamic that James and Elle’s relationship takes following a particular conversation with a matron at a cafe. Slowly, through a kind of verbal roleplaying, the relationship, and even the reality, surrounding these two characters begins to bend in purely emotional and cerebral ways. To me, you are a spiritual successor to the gloriously shifting puzzle that was Last Year at Marienbad.
The result, for me anyway, was one of rapturous discovery. I felt as though I was watching something both familiar and new, with a subject that was captivating and performances that were top notch.
In closing, Certified Copy, I would just like to say that you lead me down a primrose path, believing I knew your every secret, ready to accept you as a good example of a standard “foreign film.” before blindsiding me, and made me reconsider everything I had seen or felt before. But this is why I love you, and why I feel that I won’t be satisfied until I see you again.
Looking forward to our next meeting,
Brian J. Roan