“Copie Conforme” is a film by Abbas Kiarostami which means that it’s s-l-o-w. Slow enough to make you fidget in your seat. Slow enough to take you back to the days of the interminable scenes of couples– walking apart from each other and not talking—in those excruciating Antonioni films of the sixties. Slow enough to give you time to wonder about the nature of cinema. Should it be entertaining? Should it encourage reflexion? Can it be boring?
Then, because it is a film by Abbas Kiarostami, “Copie Conforme” goes way beyond that first impression. It’s deep, thoughtful, entertaining, extremely funny, and stays with you. As always in this director’s oeuvre, reality is a working concept—“working” used here as in “working title.” It appears tentative, etched, meandering, though it is, of course, perfectly mastered. To the viewer, nothing is quite clear. Is this what we think it is? Is it not what we think? Or something else entirely?
This couple—are they meeting for the first time, which they would have us believe, or have they been married fifteen years, which they would also have us believe? Beyond smoke and mirrors—with several scenes actually in a mirror, or through a pane, or reflected in a window—the film shows the director’s preoccupation with the nature of reality and of perception. All art is a copy of art and all human beings are doomed to repeat their actions and relive their relations in an infinite “Lady from Shanghai” hall of mirrors.
Food for thought. Beyond that, the unexpected aspect of “Copie Conforme,” is the director’s rather unique understanding of women. Through the expressive Juliette Binoche (who actually won the award for best female actor at the Cannes Film Festival) Kiarostami describes with great subtlety all the palette of a woman’s feelings.
He seems to conclude that men are simple, predictable creatures whereas women are put together from a thousand delicate pieces, with highly fragile yet resilient hinges. The message is that the one will never get to know the other or rather that men will never get to know women while women, despite the knowledge acquired by millennia of cohabitation, will never quite accept the way men are.