Monday, 31 January 2011
Set in stunning Tuscany and starring the even more stunning Juliette Binoche, this film's strength lies not in anything visual but in ideas and the heavy dialogue that delivers them. The dialogue switches seamlessly from Italian to French and then to English. This is in and of itself a device that mirrors the counter-play between the philosophical and relational concepts that the central couple repeatedly tangle over.
The departure point for the story is the book launch of amateur art historian James Miller's 'Certified Copy'. In the book he divorces authenticity from value and promotes the worth of the copy. Using art as a springboard, the story very deftly takes concepts more at home in Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation and delivers a tour-de-force post-modern expose of relationships. Or you can simply enjoy a beautifully presented film about a French woman and English man flirting and arguing in Tuscany.
A key to untangling the story is the use of mirrors and windows whether they be open or closed. Reflections and views through provide a running commentary on the twists and turns in the relationship between James and Elle. They begin as though they have just met for the first time but end up like an estranged couple trying to reconcile themselves. The viewer is never quite sure if they have already been married for 15 years or meeting for the first time. The story makes a strong play on what makes a relationship authentic and we are never sure whether we are watching the real thing or a couple copying what a relationship might look like. It asks the question 'what is real' and lays it over relationships like a template.
Binoche delivers a scintillating performance that embodies strength and vulnerability without being crushing or weak. Her performance is worthy of the Prix d'interprétation féminine (Best female actress) she won at Cannes for this role. This is an acting début for opera singer William Shimmel (Miller) of which he can be proud. The gravitas of his voice and presence deliver a strong and assured performance.
Whether you choose to indulge the post-modern mind-games or not, this is a very good film. Get hold of the disc and watch it. I'll give it 7.5/10.