Friday, March 25, 2011

The Moviegoer: Certified Copy

Spoiler Alert

During my Spring Break movie marathon, I was intrigued by the trailer for the 2010 French film, Certified Copy, which was playing in Chicago. I found the film beautifully acted by Juliet Binoche and British opera singer William Shimell in his film debut. Like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, the film concentrates on the dialogue of two characters as they flirt and get to know each other, talking of art and relationships.

According to the description, the film is about a British author who spends a day with a French woman in Tuscany. About a third into the film, the two stop for coffee and while the man takes a cellphone call outside, the woman and the barkeep discuss the French woman's husband. Coming from out of nowhere, the couple begin what appears to be role-playing a fantasy relationship. By the end of the film, many in the audience were shaking their heads, wondering whether the two were (1) crazy, (2) spontaneous role-players caught up in a fantasy, or (3) something else.

I think something else.

We are never told what the relationship between the two actually is. She first appears at a lecture he is giving. As he speaks, she leaves her son, who objects to being there, and moves to the  front where a reserved seat sits empty. The man beside her is the author's friend. He registers no surprise when she sits, nor does he seem confused when she leaves her phone number for the author. (I assumed he knew her.)

Later as the two go for a ride in Tuscany, they stop for the coffee. She allows the woman barkeep to assume they are married. He jokes about them being a couple. He tells a story about why he wrote his book about a copy by saying that he had watched a mother and her son sitting under a copy of David in Florence (where he says at one point he lived). She tears up and says that she was sick. He reacts but never says it was her.

Later the two of them come across newly weds and a public statue of a woman resting her head on a man (who is protecting her?) A man they meet tells the author what a woman really wants is for the man to put his hand on her shoulder and walk with her. The author does just that.

After an argument over cheap wine and poor service, the two end up at a hotel that the woman says had been the hotel they had stayed in 15 years earlier on their wedding night. She asks him if he remembers it. He says no, but at the end we are left to wonder.

If the couple is a couple, which part is the fantasy? I believe the vagueness of the first part is the fantasy. She complains during the film about him spending too much time concentrating on his work, and although she says he only speaks English, the two converse in French during the last part of the film. When talking about marriage with the barkeep, the barkeep says the author would be a perfect husband if he shaved. The French woman says that he only shaves every other day. Later she complains to him that he hasn't shaved and he says that one of his quirks is that he only shaves every other day. Since he had not heard her say that  earlier, is that a clue that their relationship is really more complex than just a fantasy game?

If you like a romantic mystery, you should enjoy the film. Have other  thoughts regarding the film? I'd welcome other perspectives.

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