Certified Copy (film)

Certified Copy (French: Copie conforme, Italian: Copia conforme) is a 2010 art film[2] by Iranian writer and director Abbas Kiarostami, starring Juliette Binoche and the British opera singer William Shimell, in his first film role. The film is set in Tuscany, and focuses on a British writer and a French antiques dealer, whose relationship undergoes an odd transformation over the course of a day. The film was a French-majority production, with co-producers in Italy and Belgium. The dialogue is in French, English and Italian.[3] The film premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, where Binoche won the Best Actress Award for her performance.

Certified Copy
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAbbas Kiarostami
Produced by
  • Marin Karmitz
  • Nathanaël Karmitz
  • Charles Gillibert
  • Angelo Barbagallo
Written byAbbas Kiarostami
CinematographyLuca Bigazzi
Edited byBahman Kiarostami
Distributed byMK2 Diffusion
Release date
  • 18 May 2010 (2010-05-18) (Cannes)
  • 19 May 2010 (2010-05-19) (France)
Running time
106 minutes
  • France
  • Iran
  • French
  • English
  • Italian
Budget€3.8 million
Box office$5.5 million[1]


British writer James Miller (Shimell) is in Tuscany to give a talk to a group about his new book, titled Certified Copy, which argues that, in art, issues of authenticity are irrelevant, because every reproduction is itself an original and even the original is a copy of another form. A French antiques dealer, whose name is never given (Binoche), attends the event with her 11-year-old son in order to have Miller sign several copies of the book she has purchased, but has to leave early because her son is hungry and becomes a distraction. She leaves her phone number with Miller's translator.

Miller and the woman later meet at her shop, and Miller suggests they get out and see some of the countryside. The woman drives them around aimlessly while Miller signs the books, and they talk about the book's subject, debating the finer points. Miller points out that even the Mona Lisa is a 'copy' of the woman who modeled for the painting, real or imagined.

They then visit an art museum to see another famous 'copy', and the woman gets increasingly distraught as she complains about her rebellious son to Miller, but he seems to defend her son's behavior. They go to a nearby café for coffee, and while Miller steps outside to take a phone call, the woman who runs the café, thinking Miller is the woman's husband, gets into a conversation with the woman about marriage and about him specifically, and Binoche's character immediately plays along. After Miller returns, and the woman makes him aware of their 'assumed' relationship, the two leave the café, and the nature of their discussions changes: they start to speak in a combination of French and English instead of just English (Miller states that he only learned French, not Italian in school), and, more unexpectedly, they now speak as if they truly are a married couple, who've been married for 15 years, and her son is their son. Their discussions get personal. After some arguing, and some soul-baring language, a reconciliation (of sorts) takes place.


  • Juliette Binoche as she
  • William Shimell as James Miller
  • Jean-Claude Carrière as the man at the square
  • Agathe Natanson as the woman at the square
  • Gianna Giachetti as the café owner
  • Adrian Moore as the son
  • Angelo Barbagallo as the translator
  • Andrea Laurenzi as the guide
  • Filippo Troiano as the groom
  • Manuela Balsimelli as the bride


Abbas Kiarostami and Juliette Binoche first met and became friends in the mid-1990s. Since then they had both desired to work together and in 2008 Binoche appeared briefly in Kiarostami's experimental film Shirin. During a visit in Tehran by Binoche, Kiarostami told Binoche the synopsis of Certified Copy as a casual anecdote, which she said that she fully believed until he confessed to having made it up.[4] According to Kiarostami, studying the reactions of Binoche as she listened to the story was a vital part of the film's further development. "The film started to build according to the story that I was telling, but also according to my knowledge of her as a woman with her vulnerability, with her sensitivity, with what I knew about her soul, about her relationship with her children."[5]

The film suffered from several delays and changes in the cast. Filming was originally supposed to start in October 2007 with English as the principal language.[6] A second attempt was planned for March 2008, this time mainly in French and with Sami Frey opposite Binoche.[7] Next up to be attached was François Cluzet, with filming scheduled to begin in May 2009.[8] At some point Robert De Niro was in negotiation for the role, but eventually it was offered to William Shimell, a baritone opera singer who had never acted in a film before.[9] Kiarostami had met Shimell in 2008 during his own debut as an opera director, an adaption of Così fan tutte for the Aix-en-Provence Festival, in which Shimell performed as Don Alfonso.[10] "When I saw him, I immediately perceived in him the strength, finesse and humour of the character", Kiarostami commented on his choice.[4]

Production was led by MK2 in co-production with France 3 and the Italian company BiBi Films. Funding was granted by the CNC and via pre-sales to Canal+. The budget was 3.8 million euro.[11]

The film was finally shot from 8 June 2009 on location in Tuscany, using locations in Cortona, Lucignano and Arezzo.[12] Kiarostami is normally known for making films with amateur actors and almost no budget, but said he had no difficulties in making the transition to European cinema: "This was the simplest film for me to work on—even more simple than the work I've done on my shorts, because I was working with a professional team both in front of and behind the camera." He also noted how he for once felt free to express whatever he wanted in the film.[13]


Juliette Binoche at the Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of the film.

Certified Copy premiered on 18 May 2010 at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival as part of the main competition.[14] It was released the following day in regular French cinemas through MK2.[15] The film opened in 101 venues and had an attendance of 70,876 the first week, resulting in a ninth place on the French box office chart.[16][17] After the theatrical run's second week, the number of screens had been increased to 147 and the film climbed one position on the chart, with a total attendance of 151,152.[18][19] The French website AlloCiné reported a final total of 240,797 admissions.[20]

Artificial Eye released the film in the United Kingdom on 3 September 2010.[21] It grossed £77,000 from 20 screens the opening weekend and entered the British box office chart at number 20. The Guardian reported that this was significantly better than how Kiarostami's films usually perform in the United Kingdom.[22] IFC Films acquired the rights for American distribution and Madman for Australia and New Zealand.[23]

During the release, the film was often billed as the director's first film to be made outside his native Iran, but in reality it was only his first dramatic feature film to be shot abroad. It was preceded by the 2001 documentary ABC Africa and a segment in the 2005 anthology film Tickets.[5] In Iran, the film was automatically banned by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Jamal Shourjeh from the ministry's Cinematic Department explained: "Certified Copy has been produced by a non-Iranian in Italy in western culture; therefore, it should have a license for national screening".[24] Iran's deputy culture minister Javad Shamaqdari later said that the film would remain banned from general screening, citing Juliette Binoche's attire in the film as the main reason, but that it would be allowed to be shown "in some private circles and universities".[25] But in 2011 it was made public that Certified Copy will be brought into Iranian cinemas.[26]


The French reception was very positive. "Through strokes of chased dialogue and close-ups, Abbas Kiarostami achieves a universal film, between levity and drama, about the feelings that are diluted over time", wrote Renaud Baronian in Le Parisien. Baronian also liked the lead performances, finding that Shimell "impresses with his restraint" while Binoche "proves overwhelming".[27] Nicholas Schiavi of Excessif rated the film with four stars out of five and applauded Kiarostami's craft: "With a formally refined technique and an incredible sense of frames within frames, the Iranian filmmaker offers a lesson in cinema. Each framework is a fixed organic tableau where the depth of field and the games of mirrors shape a sensory architecture. One can perceive the remains of the past and the possibilities of an idyll."[28] Emmanuèle Frois of Le Figaro wrote: "Inspired by Roberto Rossellini, Abbas Kiarostami signs his own Journey to Italy without plagiarizing the original." Frois noted how believable she found the couple with their "desires, disappointments, misunderstandings, hopes", and how the narrative alternates between drama and comedy, "like in life."[29]

As of 14 May 2018, the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes indicates that 89% of the film's American and British reviews were overall positive, based on 126 reviews with an average rating of 7.8/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The main stars are absolutely perfect in this absorbing, existential drama that dissects human relationships."[30] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[31]

In The Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young called Certified Copy "a delicate, bittersweet comedy". Young wrote that Binoche was given "a chance to display her noteworthy gifts as a comedienne, switching effortlessly from English to French and Italian to build a character that is resentful, manipulative and seductive all at once", and that Shimell's "elegant cool is very close to George Sanders'", referring to Sanders' role in Journey to Italy.[32] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian was less impressed: "It is a film that is pregnant with ideas, and for aspiring to a cinema of ideas Kiarostami is to be thanked and admired. But the simple human inter-relation between the two characters is never in the smallest way convincing, and there is a translated, inert feel to the dialogue." Bradshaw rated the film with two stars out of five and said that it sometimes looks like "the work of a highly intelligent and observant space alien who still has not quite grasped how Earthlings actually relate to each other."[33] David Denby of The New Yorker called the film "fascinating, beautiful, and intentionally enraging: a brilliant return to form from a director whose work, in the past, has joined modernist game-playing to ethical propriety and modesty." In a review of Kiarostami's next film, Like Someone in Love, Denby further described Certified Copy as "nearly perverse in its ambiguity... an intricately conjoined double fiction, each tale uneasily reverberating inside its linked opposite."[34] Stephen Holden of The New York Times compared the film to, and suggested it has drawn inspiration from, several European films from the 1950s and early 1960s, including Journey to Italy, L'Avventura and Last Year at Marienbad, as well as several films from the 1990s and 2000s: In the Mood for Love, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.[35]

Binoche received the Best Actress Award at the Cannes prize ceremony on 23 May 2010. The actress used her acceptance speech to bring attention to the Iranian director Jafar Panahi. Panahi had been set to be in the festival's jury, but was held imprisoned by the Iranian regime during the event.[36] Certified Copy was later voted the forty-sixth greatest film since 2000 in an international critics' poll conducted by BBC.[37]


  1. ^ "Box Office Mojo: Certified Copy". Box Office Mojo. 23 September 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
  2. ^ Cheshire, Godfrey (23 May 2012). "Certified Copy: At Home and Abroad". The Criterion Collection. New York, New York. Retrieved 17 February 2019. [A] Kiarostami film that just happened to [be] a Western art film [...] Certified Copy looks not only like a European art film [...] Certified Copy became an art-house hit across the West [...] [a] movie that confidently revives the conventions of a certain kind of European art cinema [...] Certified Copy [is] such a remarkable instance of confessional cinema, cleverly cloaked in the raiment of a classic modernist European art film.
  3. ^ Cheshire, Godfrey (23 May 2012). "Certified Copy: At Home and Abroad". Criterion Collection. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b Attali, Danielle (16 May 2010). "Vertigineuse Juliette Binoche". europe1.fr (in French). Europe 1. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  5. ^ a b Vivarelli, Nick (18 May 2010). "Q&A: 'Certified' director Abbas Kiarostami". Variety. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  6. ^ Carver, Antonia (20 May 2007). "English-language debut for Kiarostami". Screen. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
  7. ^ Tartaglione-Vialatte, Nancy (2 November 2007). "Kiarostami's first non-Iranian feature to be shot in French". Screen. Retrieved 19 April 2010.
  8. ^ Delignières, Clémentine (5 February 2009). "Abbas Kiarostami en français". Lesinrocks.fr (in French). Retrieved 19 April 2010.
  9. ^ Staff writer (13 July 2009). "En Toscane avec Juliette Binoche". Le Parisien (in French). Retrieved 16 April 2010.
  10. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (7 May 2010). "Kiarostami reels in British opera singer's first film role". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  11. ^ Lemercier, Fabien (16 April 2010). "Bouchareb, Haroun and Kiarostami under French banner". Cineuropa.org. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
  12. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (8 June 2009). "Kiarostami's Certified Copy begins shooting in Italy". Screen. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
  13. ^ Lake, Ed (18 October 2009). "Final comment". The National. Archived from the original on 16 March 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  14. ^ "The screenings guide" (PDF). festival-cannes.com. Cannes Film Festival. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 January 2012. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
  15. ^ "Copie conforme". AlloCiné (in French). Retrieved 19 May 2010.
  16. ^ "France Box Office, May 19–23, 2010". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
  17. ^ Staff writer (27 May 2010). "Box-Office : Robin en plein coeur". AlloCiné (in French). Retrieved 8 June 2010.
  18. ^ "France Box Office, May 26–30, 2010". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
  19. ^ Staff writer (3 June 2010). "Box-office : le Prince de Perse déloge le Prince des voleurs !". AlloCiné (in French). Retrieved 8 June 2010.
  20. ^ "Copie conforme > Box-Office". AlloCiné (in French). Tiger Global. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  21. ^ "Film profile: Certified Copy". Cineuropa. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  22. ^ Gant, Charles (7 September 2010). "The Last Exorcism drives out Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell from UK cinemas". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 13 September 2010.
  23. ^ Leffler, Rebecca (20 May 2010). "IFC takes 'Certified Copy' for U.S." The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 22 May 2010. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  24. ^ Leffler, Rebecca (18 August 2009). "Abbas Kiarostami's 'Copy' banned in Iran". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 26 August 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
  25. ^ Staff writer (29 May 2010). "Iran scraps local 'Copy'". Variety. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 December 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  27. ^ Baronian, Renaud (18 May 2010). "" Copie conforme " : fascinant". Le Parisien (in French). Retrieved 19 May 2010. A coups de dialogues ciselés et de plans serrés, Abbas Kiarostami aboutit à un film universel, entre légèreté et drame, sur les sentiments qui se diluent au fil du temps. Dans les rôles principaux, William Shimell, un chanteur lyrique dont c'est le premier rôle, épate par sa retenue et Juliette Binoche se révèle bouleversante.
  28. ^ Schiavi, Nicholas (18 May 2010). "Un superbe film de (dés)amour". Excessif (in French). TF1. Archived from the original on 21 May 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2010. Avec une technique formellement épurée et un sens inouï des surcadrages, le cinéaste iranien propose une leçon de cinéma. Chaque plan fixe est un tableau organique où la profondeur de champ et les jeux de miroirs façonnent une architecture sensorielle. On y aperçoit les vestiges du passé et les possibilités d'une idylle.
  29. ^ Frois, Emmanuèle (18 May 2010). "" Copie Conforme ": le voyage en Italie d'Abbas Kiarostami". Le Figaro (in French). Retrieved 19 May 2010. S'inspirant de Roberto Rossellini, Abbas Kiarostami signe son propre Voyage en Italie sans plagier l'original. Il filme le couple dans sa vérité et ses mensonges, les apparences trompeuses, les non dits, les éternels reproches, les désirs, les désenchantements, les malentendus, les espoirs, vains. [...] Abbas Kiarostami bat la mesure sur une partition alternant drame et comédie. Comme dans la vie.
  30. ^ "Copie conforme (Certified Copy) (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  31. ^ "Certified Copy Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  32. ^ Young, Deborah (18 May 2010). "Certified Copy -- Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 21 May 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
  33. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (2 September 2010). "Film review: Certified Copy". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
  34. ^ Denby, David (4 March 2013). "Dangerous Liaisons". The New Yorker. 89 (3): 80.
  35. ^ Holden, Stephen (10 March 2011). "On the Road, Packing Querulous Erudition". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  36. ^ Chang, Justin (23 May 2010). "'Uncle Boonmee' wins Palme d'Or". Variety. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  37. ^ "The 21st century's 100 greatest films". BBC. 23 August 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2017.

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