Certified Copy

Complex copy

CERTIFIED COPY (Abbas Kiarostami). 106 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (March 25). See listing. Rating: NNN

Abbas Kiarostami‘s relationship puzzler is the obverse of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s delightful Sunset two-handers.

That’s its major weakness. Watching two people talk to each other all night and fall in love is pure pleasure. Sitting in on a duo who spend the day in a state of disconnect is something else entirely.

Juliette Binoche plays Elle, an antiques dealer who sits in on a lecture by James (William Shimell), author of a controversial art history book that suggests reproductions are as valuable as their originals.

Obviously turned on, Elle asks James out for a day’s drive through Tuscany (typical of Kiarostami, large hunks of the film unfold in the car), and as they engage in uncomfortable discussions about life and art, the nature of their relationship grows murky.

Have they met before? At times the gulf between them is huge, at others they seem strangely intimate. Is this a real relationship or a copy?

Unfortunately, while Kiarostami enjoys playing with our expectations, the result isn’t always fun to watch. When the shifts in the level of the duo’s communication come across as silly or arbitrary, Kiarostami’s little game can be aggravating.

But 2010 Cannes acting prizewinner Binoche gives the dialogue an unusual rhythm, evoking a sea of emotions: longing, anger, disappointment. And in three languages. It’s a spectacular performance.

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