Certified Copy

Certified Copy ★★★★½

Letterboxd Season Challenge: Week 24 — Abbas Kiarostami and Asghar Farhadi

Abbas Kiarostami has spent his entire career getting the perfect car shot. Listening to conversations about authenticity and reality through a windshield while narrow Italian streets roll over their faces in reflections, it’s easily the finest of Certified Copy’s little things. And Kiarostami builds whole films on such little things. It was true from his New Wave work, and it’s true here; distant, but a reminder of what first caught his eye.

Comfortable, natural conversations letting the guard down on intellectualism while still carrying the wisdom that sees past whole horizons, soon making way for volatility amidst a different sense of reality. Elevated personalities still fall to eventual insecurities and bouts of selfishness, but also more positive qualities maybe not as associated with these character types. How these two, played by the extraordinary veteran actress Juliette Binoche and newcomer to the acting world William Shimell (most famously a singer), interact and pay attention to one another, or even when they stop interacting or listening, it gives a lot of room for deeper character construction and understanding without needing it to fall to cliche or easy examples. This is true of their original idea of self, as is the version we see later when tensions rise and new “characters” take hold. Kiarostami’s best sense of reality is in close observance and patience.

Such a style might make way for a lot of improvisation, but to my knowledge that wasn’t the case here. Kiarostami co-wrote the screenplay with Caroline Eliacheff, who you may recognize for her work with Claude Chabrol. The conversations always feel pointed, more relevant to themselves, their situations, their philosophies… there is a consistent and growing window to their worlds as they see it, and especially as one conflicts with another. An easy comparison would be to the Linklater Before Trilogy, but I understand comparing Richard Linklater to Abbas Kiarostami might be missing the point of what lies beyond the discussions and the arguments. Though let that still be an endorsement for Linklater’s trilogy, which I do dearly adore. Less so his other work, but I suppose it varies. Kiarostami, on the other hand, doesn’t wear greatness on occasion. It’s like he never has to take it off. It’s like he forgot that it’s even there. For such a wordy film, one that shifts language on a dime and with uncertain motivations bubbling underneath, it feels awfully humble. I guess that’s another trait Kiarostami never lost along his journey.

In quiet subtlety, our sense of reality on trial, all at the whim of two conversationalists slowly falling in or out of love… Abbas Kiarostami sees their humanity in as genuine a light as our own, and lets them question their own idea of art as reflection again and again and again every time one of us decides to sit down and watch them.

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