I rented “Certified Copy” a new film by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami on DVD last night. I was familiar with Kiarostami’s work and in terms of style had always wondered if the style for the new Iranian Cinema movement was mainly down to constraints of budget, and the framework of Ayatollah’s censorship, as well as the type of audience or because the directors really wanted to make films the way they do.
I imagined that Kiarostami had seen “Three Colours” all three of them but specially Blue, and like the rest of us had fallen madly in love with Juliet Binoche and her screen presence or the immaculate directing of Krzysztof Kieslowski with his obsession with little details and his play with time and multiple layered plots and said “yes I want to make one of these in my own style, and prove myself outside the Iranian Cinema” so he did!
So what did he come up with?
He created a unique, and yet brilliantly bizarre film that is distinctly in his own style. In his opening he deliberately torments the audience by making them wait for 6 minutes before something really starts. That opening is effectively a statement in itself. It says you are watching a different kind of movie, this is not Hollywood, get used to the pace I set you.
Then with very clever editing and shooting he takes you into the story and makes you one of his characters.
His usage of hand-held cameras and sounding on site take the realism to a new level. The story line itself is like an onion skin starting from one position and revealing a level about the characters as it moves along. The performance of Juliet Binoche is brilliant, but one cannot help thinking that in terms of gender roles this is very much an adaptation of Iranian gender roles mapped into a different culture. Nevertheless I think it worked beautifully.
William Shimell who plays the leading man is a rather cold character, he comes from the background of Opera so somehow his formality and upright gestures suited his role yet I could not help thinking that Kiarostami must have thought of the stereotype of an Englishman and if like many of us he lived in lovely, jovely Blighty he wouldn’t stick to such a cartoon character of a British educated middle class man .
Overall, anyone who is not used to the enigmatic, alluring and allegorical style of Iranian cinema or someone with little patience for the day-to-day poetry of human depth might struggle with the timelines and might walk off and go and order a 30 second ready latte from the local Starbucks!
What kind of reviews did the film have? Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw found it bizarre and thought it was lost in the translation of cultures, The Observer’s Phillip French seemed seduced by its enigmatic style and focused on the story-line and the background of the people involved in making the film, and also seemed more familiar with the cultural side of Iranian cinema. Sukhdev Sandhu of The Telegraph didn’t seem to think highly of it and thought Binoche carried the film and found the enigmatic loose ends perhaps annoying. He is right Binoche did carry the film but the film was written specially for her and it was in my opinion deliberately made that way. He should also read more! Modern western Art and literature is full of unresolved loose ends. What is my verdict of it? I thought as charming and brilliant Binoche is, this would have been even a better movie if it was an Iranian movie, but I’m glad he made it and I enjoyed it but my wife who was exhausted walked off and went to bed and did not care to give Mr Kiarostami the benefit of the doubt with that rather blank 6 minute opening! Do I recommend you seeing it? If you are a movie buff yes. After all that what was the basic plot? I’m not going to tell you, that would spoil it and like a Sufi/Zen allegory the basic plot had very little to do with the reality of it in this case the reality of the storyline itself!