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In 'Certified Copy,' are they married?

William Shimell as �James Miller� and Juliette Binoche

William Shimell as �James Miller� and Juliette Binoche as �She� in " Certified Copy" (May 2010) directed by Abbas Kiarostami, An IFC Films release. Photo Credit: Laurent Thurin Nal/IFC Films Credit: Laurent Thurin Nal/IFC Films/

 The galloping mischief of Abbas Kiarostami's "Certified Copy" begins with its title, but hardly ends there, as Kiarostami -- in his first feature outside Iran -- continues to explore fictions about fiction. A woman (Juliette Binoche) meets with a man named James (English opera singer William Shimell), who has written a book about originality in art.

Having established the movie's conceits, about creation and authenticity -- and why they matter and how we distinguish them -- Kiarostami turns prankster. The couple, stopping by a restaurant, are assumed by the proprietress to be married. Binoche's character, playing along, gets the reluctant James to do so as well. The couple improvise a marriage as convincing as any they meet around them -- too close, at times, for comfort.

It's so expert a charade that we begin to wonder what is real and what is counterfeit. The marriage? Or their having just met? In the course of their sometimes fractious but often warmly affectionate "performance," the viewer begins to absorb Kiarostami's subtext, that marriages are themselves fictions -- each partner experiences a different performance over the course of a marriage -- and that the life we live is itself a work of invention, possibly of art.

That Binoche and Shimell are so warmly human prevents "Certified Copy" from becoming some intellectual exercise, as does its director's vision of the world as beautiful and elusive. What "Certified Copy" shows, in addition to Kiarostami's gifts as a visual enchanter, is a thematic consistency that's certainly no fiction.


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