Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
France/Italy/Belgium, 2010. MK2 Productions, BiBi Film, Abbas Kiarostami Productions, France 3 Cinema, Canal+ France, Centre National De La Cinematographie, Toscana Film Commission, Anglo-Belge Special Risks NV, Artemis Productions, Cinémage 4, Cofinova 6, France Televisions, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Federal de Belgique, MEDIA Programme of the European Union, RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana, Rai Cinema, Regione Toscana, Soficinéma 5. Screenplay by Abbas Kiarostami, collaboration with Caroline Eliacheff. Cinematography by Luca Bigazzi. Produced by Angelo Barbagallo, Charles Gillibert, Nathanael Karmitz, Abbas Kiarostami. Production Design by Giancarlo Basili, Ludovica Ferrario. Costume Design by Sandra Berrebi. Film Editing by Bahman Kiarostami. Podcast: My Criterions. Cannes Film Festival 2010. Washington Film Critics Awards 2011.
Celebrated Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami makes his first film in Europe with this gorgeous romantic drama. Juliette Binoche is outstanding as an antiques dealer who meets an author (opera singer William Shimell making a highly impressive cinematic acting debut) who has written a book on historical artistic forgeries. She takes him to see a painting in a Tuscan museum, and throughout their day they discuss art and society before they are mistaken for a married couple and the conversation veers towards the more personal issues of love and companionship. Kiarostami has always made a habit of creating stories that exist on knife edges between reality and fiction, and here he has the potential to frustrate the viewer with a constant narrative uncertainty: are they a real couple and we just haven’t noticed? Or are they playing a game with each other as a way to shake out their personal demons? The point is not to know (a feeling not shared by journalists at the Cannes festival where it premiered, who inundated Kiarostami with questions seeking narrative security): this is a film to be felt, not understood, and its enigmatic qualities contribute as much to the poetic beauty of the experience as do the languid dialogue and captivating performances. Binoche is so powerful it would be quite easy to simply watch her face react to situations for hours without getting bored (she took the Best Actress prize at the festival), while Shimell matches her beautifully with his emotionally unavailable frustration, as compellingly stunted as she is vulnerably accessible.