Decades into a career painted over with lavish layers of praise, it seems honest to ask: is there a more humane trickster working in film today than Abbas Kiarostami? Never less than rigorous, preoccupied with the illusions and reproductions in both art and life—art being life and life being art, in his formulation—the Iranian filmmaker who now, like Tarkovsky later in life, works seemingly unsupported by his own country, has used the medium of film (for which he seems to have been born) to humanize The Lie. Certified Copy, then, seems both a return to and sloughing off of form, a cracked-mirror casting-back of hospitable themes (love, pleasure, marriage, reflection) with handsome, sun-swallowing points vanishing in deep background. That the formal elements here are warmer to the touch than those in Through the Olive Trees or Taste of Cherry should cause the opposite of alarm. A putative tale of romance that thrillingly casts off tidy character rationalizations in favor of a far more compelling schematic reality—two apparent strangers (Juliette Binoche and William Shimell) slip before our very eyes into the rhythms and discomforts of married life, tied like an anniversary present with wayward glances and irrational outbursts—Certified Copy is, considering the sneak-alarm of its message, shatteringly pleasurable. (John Magary)
Audio/Visual: At their best, Blu-rays have the capacity to remind us (or, better still, show us for the first time) how visually arresting certain films actually are. This is such a case. I remember being most struck by Certified Copy on a cerebral level when I first saw it in late 2010, but in re-watching it I was taken aback by how pleasing to the eye it is. Luca Bigazzi shot the film on the Red One, and Criterion’s transfer is virtually flawless: the Tuscan sky, winding country road, every emotive look on Juliette Binoche’s face—all are brilliantly realized here. Detail doesn’t come at the expense of smoothness, and the colors, though often bright, are never over-saturated. The same can be said of the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which is just as seamless and fluid as Binoche and Shimell’s constant verbal sparring.
Supplements: Not quite as many as some of Criterion’s most lavish releases, perhaps, but the three main extras here are excellent all the same. In a 16-minute interview, Kiarostami divulges a good deal about the film’s conception and production, the most interesting parts being his thoughts on the dynamic between Binoche and Shimell’s characters. (He still doesn’t answer the main question raised by their relationship, of course.) Too, there’s a nearly hour-long making-of documentary called “Let’s see ‘Copia Conforme” featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. The biggest coup, though, is the inclusion of The Report, an early rarity whose original negative was, according to Kiarostami, destroyed during the Iranian Revolution. Needless to say, it’s never appeared on home video before. That alone makes this an essential release for any Kiarostami completist but, in all honesty, it would have been anyway. (Michael Nordine)