Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Producers: Angelo Barbagalo, Charles Gillibert, Marin Karmitz, Nathanael Karmitz, Abbas Kiarostami. Writer: Abbas Kiarostami. Camera: Luca Bigazzi. Sets: Giancarlo Basili, Ludovica Ferrario.
Juliette Binoche, William Shimell, Jean-Claude Carriere, Agathe Nathanson, Gianna Giachetti, Adrian Moore, Angela Barbagalo.
Author James (Shimmel) visits Tuscany to promote his latest book. Amongst his rapturous audience is single mum Elle (Binoche), who also acts as his guide around the beautiful countryside when he wants to pass the time. A chance comment from a café owner, who mistakes them for a bickering married couple, is continued as they play out an assumed life together until their false association begins to unravel.
A curiously satisfying Italian/Franco rural romp, curious because of the amusingly knotted-up storyline and satisfying because it looks lovely – obviously, as it stars the delectable, scrumptious French actress Binoche.
Delectable and scrumptious because (at the age of 46) she defies all known laws of human female biology with her ageless looks and incredibly firm bounteous breasts – a naturally cantilevered miracle of flesh that should be up there with the Pyramids of Giza as a wonder of the world. She’s certainly shown at her best by Bigazzi lovely photography.
Satisfying also because, with its own unique, nutty, messy intelligence this is a thought provoking film that looks around corners at the complexity and ridiculousness of human interactions, how other people’s perceptions define who we are and how they also help to construct our social world – if not the first, is this the finest phenomenological film?! Sociology theory cinema hardly weighs heavily on the annual output of movie-makers (the existential crime drama I Love Huckabees being the only other example this critic can pluck out of thin air) so as an off-beat idea this piece is to be cherished.
Kiarostami certainly has a clever central concept that also sets the scene for some searching and smart dialogue as Shimmel’s book details how copies of famous works of art legitimise and draw attention to the original piece – the parallels with the false love story are deliciously obvious. But as with other smart-arse movies, eventually the convoluted plot gingerly trips over itself and as the sole writer, even Kiarostami chickens out during the final uninspired reel, but it is certainly a fun and sensuous journey he takes us on to get there.
Shimmel’s pragmatic realism and Binoche’s sultry neuroticism run alongside each other with sexy and mysterious results – rather pointedly, they are also the only characters in the film credited with names; everyone else is a function or role, drawing further interest to them as the original, unique object . Although they jump at the comedy in the script, Moore as Binoche’s son steals their thunder in this regards with a nice line in wisecracking, perceptive teenager.