Double_Dubs’s review published on Letterboxd:
This has been on my radar for years and the question in my head always remained the same: "wtf is this title?" By the time the film reveals itself... my god. This is bone chilling. This is almost an alternative, far darker coda to even the work of Ingmar Bergman instead of Saraband. It's a relationship hinted at the kind of dramas of dysfunctional, hyper-conscious transcendentally-pitying intimacy even Tarkovsky would have created from what was implied in Nostalghia. It's a most divine, subtle, and infuriated takedown of toxic masculinity (or, maybe in a way, lack thereof) within irresponsible, emotionally distant, and prideful men.
After we get to know our lead characters in the first half of what seemed like artistic and light-hearted interpersonal banter, the crummy, bleak pieces all coalesce together and climaxes at what might be the most devastating restaurant scene I can remember. It's watching a train wreck in hyper slow motion because the film engages the importance of history and the presents that are within them, hence one reason for this title; in this train wreck we have a man completely blinded by his own hubris and indecisive flight-or-flight fear and inability to connect, a woman completely intoxicated - blasted - on the copies of what she felt in a seemingly very lopsided relationship that exist only in her head now. These copies engage what she desperately seems to need for her own sense of self worth and maybe a retroactive justification or really desperate illusion of closure for how her baggaged life as a single mother has turned out. The theme of the "original" and the "copy" present in how we digest the glories and in-denial disappointments of life, culminates in what I find to be a really depressingly cathartic ending.
Kiarostami's ability to visually present the ironies and arcs and situations of life as experienced in the moment by our characters - a touch Proustian in nature - is so spellbinding not only in their punchiness but most of all in their subtlety. You have no idea why you're so attracted to seemingly plain shots; one big stroke of the cinematography is where it tracks the course of harder sunlight until the color grade just gets darker and more crushing and highlights the world getting more overcast. The cinematography operates in the highest wavelength of filmmaking technique, as its own allegorical visual journey.
I thought of my mother and her physically perpetually-distant husband with acceptances (or maybe not) of divorce and her lifelong obsessions with hoarding mementos and creating the image - the copy - of once was. It's in her attempt to salvage what, in furthest hopes, can be, and the images and elations created in society by those unaffected by her afflictions only make it so much worse.
I thought of my first relationship where my wannabe over-intellectualizations and whatever meager achievements I added to my ego were complete distractions from my emotional and intimate life; I was reminded of my shameful cruelty, my still-going stubbornness, my carelessness with my interpersonal relationships, my disgracefully Western sense of pride in my selfish individuality, my perennial desire to be validated but for seemingly more obscure causes.
I haven't been knocked the fuck back ever by a simple gesture of a hand in an artwork before.
I'm disturbed by yet find beautiful the implication of James's earthed desire to come to terms with his guilt of leaving a basically bastard kid, that meshes head to head with a wistful resurgence of his past sparks with Binoche, that's then framed in his own subconscious confession of his shittiness that he just carelessly exploits for his book, in his story of the woman and the child.
The importance of presenting your beauty for Juliette Binoche's character is used to a "fuck you" level of devastating here. It blows my mind how thick the skin (or just penchant for tolerance) some women have to have to not be utterly self-humiliated in a situation like hers. I just feel so bad for her. It's not every day I get to see and for the runtime of this film, somewhat experience, what unrequited love (obsession, really) that's gone way too far off the deep end for a hetero woman is like. Her character in this film is one of the saddest I've seen in cinema lol.
And of course it's cinema's job to put their hand on your shoulder and say, "don't worry, don't just feel bad. Here are all the cosmic and societally pressured and reflexive and empathetically inflamed webs for how you should feel much, much worse."