Sunday, September 26, 2010

Copie Conforme (Certified Copy) رونوشت برابر اصل

I am just returning from a semi-private screening of this film.

It is directed by Iran's best-known and most advertised (by French intellectuals) filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. He is iconoclastic.

Copie Conforme is full of Kiarostami's signature cinematographs: long monologues in a car, close-ups, very long takes, handheld cameras that disorient and distanciate, and yet a rhythmic marriage of time and space that makes the film work like music. Kiarostami's films crawl up your nerves: irritate you, agitate you, excite and exhilarate you; but give you pleasure at the end, only if you relax, and let your brain stop to make a linear sense, a common sense ... if you enjoy the ride, you will arrive!

I have never written about him, not because I disrespect him or dislike him, but because he is so much talked about, by the orientalist, the exoticians, the in-search-of-a-new-philosophy's that I didn't feel like joining the choir. But, his last film made me appreciate a dimension of his filmmaking abilities which I had not previously experienced. This was his first non-Iranian production and as far as I recall, this is the first time he has directed a cinema-star (Juliette Binoche) in front of the camera. This is the first time he doesn't have to shave his female actor's head to show her without Hijab.

About Binoche and her experience and raving admiringly about Kiarostami's mastery, I won't say much because all her interviews are available online and you can just google them. But I can tell that she deserved every bit of her Canne's award for her performance.

To appreciate Binoche's performance, you have to be able to recognize how easily she shifts through her moods and roles. This is not easy when you have to perform through long takes, muster long monologues, be gazed through the close-up shots, and walk in and out the maze-like spaces and mirrors that compartmentalize the space of the sequence without needing a cut.

Binoche IS a great actor (I have learned to not use word actress, as it is not politically correct!), but this film made me bow to Kiarostami's ability to "mettre en scene": he utilized Binoche next to an opera singer (William Shimell) with virtually no acting experience, to construct a play in three acts, to twist the otherwise banal story of a professional artsy couple with marital issues into a voyeuristic journey through Tuscan and Florentine landscapes. He constructs the story in the most play-full way (even in terms of acting--they are not realist acting at times. Towards the end, the performances made me think of Beizayee actually), and juxtaposes his characters against visually stunning landscapes, lights them and costumes them aesthetically, crowds the screen with brides, and art objects which at times challenge the realism and make us wonder if this is intended to be read as a dream, yet without the cliches of vineyards and art masterpieces and food and tradition, and the exoticism of a writer and an art dealer in the middle of it all.

To reduce this film to visuals is not fair. But, I never offer interpretations about films. Nor do I read them. I suffice to point that Kiarostami does not use the language to tell a story. He rather uses the dialogues to ask questions that may be irrelevant to the underlying narrative of the film. He intends to ask philosophical questions and he asks them explicitly. He offers his views on those questions explicitly too. The beauty of his work for me is that he also injects uncertainty into his own answers by having another character ask another question. His films are full of devil advocates.

This film is not mainstream, if it means that one expects a facile narrative. But it is gorgeous. It happens in three languages. There is a lot of talking and no action; other than Binoche's choreographed moves in and out of frame. This was a jolt of joy in my otherwise down mood! I am grateful to him for making it.

When watching this, I felt he has Frenchized a gentle bit of his early master pieces; like an antology teaser! Tell me, if you feel like that too. I would be more than happy to see him make European adaptations of "Where is the Friend's House?", "Au Traverse Des Oliviers", "Life and Nothing More", and my most favorite: The Wind Will Carry us.

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