Cannes Report: Day 7

Abbas Kiarostami, Certified Copy, 2010, color film in 35 mm, 106 minutes. James Miller and She (William Shimell and Juliette Binoche).

ABBAS KIAROSTAMI’S competition title Certified Copy, which screened for the press last night, received the first boos I’ve heard for any film at the festival—though one colleague rapturously described it this afternoon as “Before Sunrise directed by Antonioni.” Set in Tuscany, Kiarostami’s latest follows a day in the life of a gallery owner (Juliette Binoche) and an art historian (British baritone William Shimell, making his film debut). We assume they’re complete strangers getting to know each another. But at the film’s midpoint, the dynamic shifts, and they assume the roles—or become the copies—of a couple married for fifteen years.

At the Certified Copy press conference today, the real Binoche was flanked by her own replica: A Brigitte Lacombe photograph of the actress, clutching paintbrushes in both hands, is the official poster of this year’s festival. But before journalists had their chance to direct their shopworn questions to the performer (one typical exchange: “How do you choose your projects around the world?” “They choose me”), matters of actual gravitas prevailed. Kiarostami politely announced that before discussing his Palme d’Or contender, he would address the situation of his jailed compatriot Jafar Panahi: “The fact that a filmmaker has been imprisoned is itself intolerable,” he said. Kiarostami, who provided copies of the open letter he sent to the New York Times in March regarding Panahi’s incarceration, added that on the car ride over to the Palais, he had received a message from Panahi’s wife—a sign, perhaps, of good news. Just a few minutes later, however, an unmiked journalist relayed that she’d heard that Panahi would not be freed and was, in fact, about to start a hunger strike. Kiarostami remained completely placid behind his trademark sunglasses, but emotion in the room ran high. One reporter, stirred by the director’s mere presence, asked if he “does not go in fear” himself. “I am not afraid,” he answered—a response that moved Binoche to tears.