Certified Copy – The Criterion Collection #612 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 23, 2012 by  

If you are a cineaste who enjoys films that incorporate intelligent conversation, you will be captivated by “Certified Copy”.   A film that showcases Abbas Kiarostami’s beautiful direction and fascinating screenplay, plus a brilliant performance by Juliette Binoche and William Shimell… “Certified Copy” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © MK2-Bibi Films – France 3 Cinema – Artemis Productions. The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Certified Copy – The Criterion Collection #612 (Copie Conforme)


DURATION: 106 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 Surround in English, French and Italian with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Sundance Selects/The Criterion Collection

RELEASE DATE: May 22, 2012

Directed and Written by Abbas Kiarostami

Produced by Angelo Barbagallo, Charles Gillibert, Marin Karmitz, Nathanael Karmitz, Abbas Kiarostami

Executive PRoducer: Clair Dornoy, Marin Karmitz

Line Producer: Gaetano Daniele

Cinematography by Luca Bigazzi

Edited by Bahman Kiarostami

Production Design by Giancarlo Basili, Ludovica Ferrario


Juliette Binoche as Elle

William Shimell as James Miller

Adrian Moore as Le Fils

Jean-Claude Carriere as L’homme de la place

Agathe Natanson as La femme de la place

Gianna Giachetti as a patronne du cafe

Angelo Barbagallo as Le traducteur

Andre Laurenzi as Le guide

Filippo Trojano as Le marie

The great Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami travels to Tuscany for a luminous and provocative romance in which nothing is as it appears. What seems at first to be a straightforward tale of two people—played by Oscar-winning actress Juliette Binoche and opera singer William Shimell—getting to know each other over the course of an afternoon gradually reveals itself as something richer, stranger, and trickier: a mind-bending reflection on authenticity, in art as well as in relationships. Both cerebrally and emotionally engaging, Certified Copy reminds us that love itself is an enigma.

The multi-talented filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami is known for his films, documentaries, poetry, paintings and graphic designs.  Considered as one of the most influential filmmakers to come from the Middle East and known for his films such as the “Koker Trilogy”, “Taste of Cherry”, “The Wind Will Carry Us” and “Close Up”, in 2010, Kiarostami would reunite with his “Shirin” actress, Juliette Binoche for the film “Certified Copy” (Copie Conforme).

Written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami and shot in Tuscany, “Certified Copy” would feature Juliette Binoche (“Thee Colors: Blue”, “The English Patient”, “Cache”) and opera singer William Shimell (“Hercules”, “Love”).  The film would be Kiarostami’s first film shot and produced outside of Iran, it would also be the first film of Kiarostami in creating European cinema.  And sure enough, the film would receive rave reviews from critics and audiences worldwide and the film would also earn Juliette Binoche the “Best Actress Award” at the Cannes Film Festival.

And now “Certified Copy” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.  Also, included with this release is Abbas Kiarostami’s first feature film, “The Report” (1977).

“Certified Copy” begins with people who have attended a lecture and are anxiously waiting for British writer and art historian, James Miller (played by William Shimell), to talk about his new book “Certified Copy”.  The book argues that authenticity is irrelevant and that reproduction is original, as the original is a copy of another form.

Among those attending the lecture is a French antique dealer (played by Juliette Binoche), a woman who is awaiting to get her book signed by Miller.  But because her 11-year-old son (played by Adrian Moore) is getting a bit antsy and is very hungry, she has to leave not long after the lecture has begun.   Not wanting to miss the opportunity to get an autograph from James Miller, the antique dealer (without a name) leaves her phone number with Miller’s translator in hopes that he can sign her books.

The following day, James Miller arrives at the French antique dealer’s shop and while he compliments her choices of art, she tells him they are only reproductions and it begins their conversation about original art vs. reproductions and in the process, because the dealer has issues with his book “Certified Copy”, she wants to take him out to the countryside and let him see things with his own eyes.

While James signs the books, the dealer talks about the issues she has with the books and then they end up discussing situations about her rebellious son, more about reproductions and sooner or later, these two get into a conversation that tests both of their patience.

As they go into a cafe, a woman who runs the cafe, thinks that the two are a couple and the next thing you know, the two begin to pretend as if they are a married couple.

But the conversations change as if they are or were a real life couple who have been married for 15-years and both get into an argument as if they were a real couple.   Do these two know each other?  Are they a real couple?  Are they acting out their own relationships towards each other.  Or is this a dream? Or is it reality?


“Certified Copy” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio) and there is no doubt that Kiarostami’s use of the Red digital camera brought a lot of detail to his latest film.   The colors are vibrant, detail and clarity look magnificent and  I detected no video-related problems, no artifacts, banding, edge enhancement…nothing.  “Certified Copy” looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray!

According to the Criterion Collection, the film was shot in 4K RAW using a RED digital camera and the entire production was completed in a fully digital workflow.  The color grading and digital interpositive were approved by director Abbas Kiarostami and director of photography Luca Bigazzi.  The final color corrected DPX files were output to Rec. 709 high-definition color space for BD and DVD release.

As for “The Report”, the Criterion Collection presents the 1977 film in the best quality available to them.  While the film looks good for its age.  While there is some film damage with occasional green lines that can be seen and some other damage.  But most visible towards the beginning of the film.


“Certified Copy” is presented in English, French and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (note: one audio track, with all three languages used in the film).  Dialogue is crystal clear and the film features good use of atmospheric ambiance.  From the sounds of Tuscany, the birds and vehicles and more.  The lossless track is primarily dialogue-driven through the front and center channels but the audio quality is great and I detected no audio problems.  Optional Subtitles are included.

According to the Criterion Collection, the original 5.1 lossless soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master using Pro Tools HD.


“Certified Copy – The Criterion Collection #612” on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

  • The Report – (1:49:28) A civil servant is a hard worker but is often not there for his wife and child.  But when he is accused of bribery, his life starts to change and his marriage also begins to suffer.
  • Abbas Kiarostami – (16:02) Featuring an interview with Abbas Kiarostami who talks about the film, what inspired the film and finding the cast members for the film.
  • Let’s See “Copia Conforme” – (52:05) A documentary by Irene Bufo featuring the making of the film and interviews with Kiarostami, the cast and crew.
  • Theatrical trailer – (2:14) Theatrical trailer for “Certified Copy”.


“Certified Copy – The Criterion Collection #612” comes with a 24-page booklet featuring the essay “At Home and Abroad” by Godfrey Chesire.

 When it comes to films that are verbose, cerebral and dialogue-driven, more often, they can be too much for a viewer.  But when executed perfectly, you know you have something special.

May it be a film like Eric Rohmer’s “My Night at Maud’s” where characters spend a long time in discussion, but these they talk about aren’t banal, these are intelligent discussions by two individuals about life, art, reproduction.  But then you get this little twist that is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Antonioni’s “L’Avventura” or Alain Resnais “Last Year At Marienbad” where the characters may appear to have known each other or perhaps have been in a relationship before, because their intelligent discussion leads to an argument that couples experience.

And that is one thing that is rather fascinating about “Certified Copy”, unlike Resnais “Last Year at Marienbad” which surrealism and visual filmmaking come together in a rather complex fashion, Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy” gives us no clues that the two are a couple, a former couple or two people trying to act out an experiment of relationships.  Or perhaps it is a dream… or is it reality?

Nothing is explained but it allows the viewer to give their own interpretation.  And this is important because the film’s original topic was about the concept of art and reproduction.  When we look at art, we have a response toward it. But that response can be different.  The same with this relationship, we have our own interpretation if these two characters.  In my mind, almost like painting that I spend a lot of time watching in a museum… you have these ideas of what is the intention of the artwork, what is the history and was the painting influenced by another.

With the characters of James Miller and the antique dealer, my mind was already dead set that these two individuals knew each other long ago, were in love and this visit was a way for them to escape reality and re-enact a moment of what if they were a couple.

Now I go back to the common argument of the film, art vs. reproduction and how the character of James Miller felt that reproductions were originals, as the original was also inspired or a copy of something else.  And when you start to think of the film and analyze it, what if that was the initial thought.  Using art as a symbol, but featuring cinema.  Cinema like art can be original but yet others  may feel it’s a copy or inspired by another film.

And then you wonder if its life imitating art.  Abbas Kiarostami once told actress Juliette Binoche that the film was based on his life, then changed his story that it was based on his life and then tells media that it s a story that incorporates Juliette’s life.  In other words, the message is that art, cinema and everything created can be original but yet can be inspired by something else.  So, what others will think of “Certified Copy” as original, others may point to Resnais “Last Year at Marienbad”, Antonioni’s “L’Avventura” or Wong Kar-Wai’s “In the Mood for Love”, and think that the film was inspired by those or other similar, dream-like type of films.

But do we need an explanation of why Kiarostami created the film?  I don’t think so, and that’s what makes “Certified Copy” so enjoyable to watch.  It’s a film that YOU interpret on your own.  And if everyone comes up with a different answer, then so be it, I’m sure filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami would be pleased.

Another reason why I enjoyed “Certified Copy” is how Kiarostami handles relationships.  He goes into more detail about this in the special feature but it’s the concept of the conflicts that are experienced between a man and woman in a relationship.  The more we understand each other, the worse things get.   And it’s a concept that many married couples or those who have been in long time relationships can understand.  When things go bad, we look to others who make things look as they are going so great but are they?  We have two characters who are somewhat soul searching and through each other, may it be through this playful interaction or may they be true emotions that are coming out, it’s that sense of the unpredictable that captivates us.  There is more going on with these two that is explained but yet, these conflicts can be understood, because many of us have experienced these uncertainties as well.

As for the performance, Juliette Binoche was absolutely fantastic in this film and for a first time major role for opera singer William Shimell, to have him memorize his line, including the long dialogue (which surprised Binoche who didn’t memorize everything, and utilized improvisation to coincide with Shimell’s performance) and literally be prepared for his role, I was impressed by his performance.  But both talents did a wonderful job.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Certified Copy” looks amazing on Blu-ray and cineaste who are fans of Kiarostami’s work should be pleased as there are no video or audio-related problems that I could find with this release.  And as far as special features go, it’s one thing that you get a documentary on the making-of the film and an interview with Kiarostami but the fact that the Criterion Collection also included his first feature film “The Report” (1977) with this release is fantastic!

Overall, if you are a cinema fan who loves films that incorporate intelligent conversation but also a film that incorporates Abbas Kiarostami’s brilliant direction and fascinating screenplay, which also further compliments the performance by Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, “Certified Copy” is highly recommended!

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