ADFF film review: Copie Conforme

A masterful essay on the value of art.

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Copie Conforme 

Director: Abbas Kiarostami 

Starring: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell

The academic author James Miller (William Shimell) gives a lecture on his new book Copie Conforme in Italy.

The British writer explains how the perception of a piece of art means that a certified copy can be as valuable as the real thing. The perception of the value and meaning of an object is key. In the crowd is Elle (Juliette Binoche) who owns a store that sells such artefacts. Her son (Adrian Moore) is pestering her to leave the boring lecture. In the first hint that things may not be what they seem, son teases mother that she likes the author.

Sure enough, Elle and James are soon taking a trip together to look at art in San Gimignano. As they wander the streets talking, the atmosphere changes into something that more closely resembles a date. This is Abbas Kiarostami's first foray into English-language film and the dialogue seems clunky, the atmosphere and discussion laboured. Then Kiarostami pulls the rug out from under us.

In a funny sequence in a café, Elle claims she is married to James. Suddenly, the true nature of their relationship is unclear; perhaps they are married. It's disorienting and the structure of the movie seems designed to replicate the argument by Miller at the top of the film. It's a masterful essay on the value of art, but the slow burner does take a little too long to come to the boil.