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Movies Review

Cannes 2010: 'Copie Conforme'

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Copie Conforme
Released on Sunday, May 23 2010

Romance in Tuscany may seem like grist for the Hollywood mill (didn't Diane Lane do this a few years back?), but Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami takes an unconventional approach to the subject in Copie Conforme. British author James Miller (William Shimell) is in Italy to promote his latest book Certified Copy, an exploration of original art and replicas, when he meets a nameless French gallery owner (Juliette Binoche). They spend the day together, yet the courtship turns on its head when a cafe owner mistakes James for Bincohe's husband. They play along and the rest of the film sees them wandering around Italy making a very convincing long-term couple: that is they get caught up squabbling about the little things.

It's a deeply thoughtful picture, essentially a two-hander with the couple engaging in very lengthy conversations about love, life, the nature of originality, duplicates and their (fabricated?) relationship. It bucks tradition and goes firmly against the genre grain, however, the verbosity and elusiveness of the central characters make it cinematically inert and a tad dull. It's an original idea, for sure, but would feel more at home in the theatre than on the big screen.

Nevertheless, Cannes poster girl Binoche is radiant in the lead role as she tries to cajole emotion out of the distant and laid-back James. Shimell, an opera singer making his movie debut, is also good, playing a smooth Englishman cut from the Anthony Head/Gold Blend mould. Their chemistry is convincing and there's always ambiguity hanging over their relationship: have they just met? Is there truth to the illusion they're presenting? Kiarostami is quick to stimulate the mind but not the heart; as a result he never finds a comfortable balance between intellect and emotion, leaving Copie Conforme feeling chilly and distant.



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