There are those who'll tell you that Abbas Kiarostami's latest is a return to form, that the filmmaker who thrilled cinephiles with poetic-humanist movies such as Through the Olive Trees (1994) is back. Yes, the Iranian director has wandered out of the art-installation-ber-alles wilderness of the last decade once more into the realm of narrative, and seeing his signature car-windshield shots again will make fans swoon. But please ignore these nostalgic people posthaste. Anyone expecting the heights of the director's glorious '90s run upon entering this teasing tale of a French antiques dealer (Binoche) and a British writer (Shimell) tooling around Tuscany will be disappointed. (If it's a "return to form," the question is: Whose form, exactly?) Should audiences dismiss this for not being Close-Up Redux, however, they'd be missing out on something incredible in its own right, a philosophical puzzle about shallow authenticity versus deep fakery and whether the roles we play constitute their own profound reality.
That last one is Certified Copy primary preoccupation, especially once a caf owner mistakes the duo for husband and wife. Watch Binoche's expressions as she turns this misunderstanding into the movie's parallel-universe scenario; her award-winning performance is reason alone to dive into such intellectual gamesmanship. (She can suggest an entire emotional arc with one facial tic.) While a gradual shift from Rohmeresque moral musings to Bergmanesque bitchery---alt title: Scenes from a Made-Up But Still Crazy-Dysfunctional Marriage---diminishes the third-act returns of Kiarostami's deadpan farce, the film still leaves you sifting through a staggering amount of weighty, wide-ranging issues about connection. After all, what is cinema but an elaborate simulation that, in the hands of an artist, mines real truth from fiction? By that criterion, Certified Copy is indeed the genuine article.
Watch the trailer