x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Cannes: Copie Conforme

Kiarostami's venture into Europe is ultimately rewarding.

The Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami makes his first foray into European language films with a tease of a movie that feels heavy-going for the first hour but proves ultimately rewarding. It starts promisingly with an academic author, James Miller (William Shimell) giving a lecture on his new book Copie Conforme in Italy. The Briton explains how the audience perception of art means that a certified copy of a piece can be as valuable as the original, and indeed that repetition can reinforce or change how an artefact is viewed. In the crowd is Elle (Juliette Binoche) who owns a store that sells such artefacts. She's being pestered by her son (Adrian Moore) to leave the boring lecture. He then teases her with liking the author. Soon enough, Elle and James are seen taking a trip to look at art in San Gimignano. They discuss art in the car, in a nod to Kiarostami's 2002 film Ten. As they wander the streets, the atmosphere changes to something more like a date and the action feels like a bizarre mix of Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise and Aleksandr Sokurov's museum-set masterpiece Russian Ark. It all seems laboured until a cafe sequence where Elle pretends to be married to James. Then the director starts to pull the rug from under us. The pair's joking begins to obscure the true nature of their relationship. The director proves James's original point that repetition changes perspective. The same could be said of Kiarostami's body of work, with each film adding new layers to his obsession with relationships and the meaning of life.