Mar 19, 2011

Back to square one on Certified Copy

Sheesh. People are making it so hard. I'd almost convinced myself to go see Certified Copy, after the Siren helped me recover from Richard Brody's endorsement. According to Brody the film "embraces the viewer in the reality of the fiction... as if submitting it to viewers for open discussion" but apparently it wasn't that bad, and even had a couple of good jokes, said the Siren. I was fully prepared to eat a hearty breakfast, brush up on my Dubord and trot along to the Angelika to immerse myself in it's Escherian splendor. And then this, from MUBI's Michael Sicinsky:—
"Certified Copy" operates almost in reverse of most thematically inclined works of art, which plunge us into a falsely desultory universe and gradually reveal their master interpretive passkey. Kiarostami's film presents a concept, fully formed and cogent, and allows the rest of the film to set to work on that concept, breaking it into Heisenbergian particles, then bringing it back into solid shape, and on and on."
Oh boy. I was this close, too. Personally, I think it's inconsiderate to write about films like this, particularly if you profess to be a lover of cinema. It's a question of perspective. Even the sternest critic of 127 Hours didn't try to make out that it was 90 minutes of tendon-severing and gristle-gouging. They emphasised the more appetising aspects of the production — James Franco's performance, the cinematography, the song by Dido — and weighed the good with the bad. As John Updike once said of a critic — and I paraphrase — "what you say is true, but is it all that can be said of my work?" I'm not asking the critics to lie. If the metafictional stuff is in there, then it's in there and there's nothing can be done about it. But to keep harping on it like this is unhelpful. It reminds me of the time I met a friend for dinner, only to see her get out of the cab wearing a truly awful hat — the kind of hat that draws all the attention in a room without rewarding it. I could see her walking towards me, and all I could think was "what a terrible hat, what a terrible hat". The first words out of my mouth? "What a lovely hat." Nobody was well-served by that comment. What I should have done, of course, is asked her whether she had difficulty finding the restaurant and moved swiftly on.


  1. Tom. Just go see the movie. Please. I swear, it's FUNNY. Yes, it messes with your head, but in a good way. Look, I like it so much that I didn't even mind that the male lead looks (and sounds) uncannily like an ex. It was the highlight of the New York Film Festival, and not just for me. I sat next to Glenn Kenny and we kept digging each other in the ribs whenever there was a particularly good line. I walked out with Keith Uhlich and we spent 20 blocks smacking our foreheads and saying "I cannot believe how GREAT that was." Sheila O'Malley has already seen it three times. This is not cinematic brussels sprouts. I promise. Gently push away the mouse, avoid further reviews and just go see it.

  2. I second the first comment.
    go watch it. you will not be disappointed.
    well, you might be, but you won't regret watching it.
    i actually loved the film. for me, it's among the best works kiarostami or binoche have ever put out.

  3. Binoche was excellent: flirty and funny and sexy and just a little bit unhinged. Yes, it tries a bit too hard to throw you off, but I just ignored and had fun watching.

  4. I loved it and I don't share Mr. Brody's taste, to put it politely. You can get all abstract about the film--which you have to do in a way to explain its shift in emphasis--but it's really the moment-to-moment stuff that puts it over. It's tactile, funny, romantic, depressing, devastating--and, oh yes, just gorgeous-looking. Shimmel is a real actor, and what a voice. Binoche is just about the best thing in movies now. It's not Uncle Bonmeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, I promise. See it.

  5. A barrage of recommendations from entirely trustworthy sources. Thank you to all. My resistance is weakening, my faith in Binoche calling to me like a lighthouse in stormy seas....

  6. At least quote me accurately: