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May 11, 2011

Ain’t nothing like the real thing

I have been learning a new language. I kept hearing about globalization and how, in order to compete in the modern job market, the best candidate for employment should speak at least three languages. It was suggested that I might want to learn Chinese, because sooner (rather than later) we will all be working for “the sleeping giant,” as they say, but I’m not studying Chinese.

No, I realize it would be smart to do so. There are, after all, a hundred bazillion people in the world who speak Chinese (although we might want to check these figures before swearing to their veracity), and if I could speak Chinese, I’d be able to communicate with so many people! But there are simply too many words and characters in the Chinese language. I could never learn them all. I figure if I ever go to China, I’ll just bring a bunch of blank paper and some pencils; I could just draw a picture of whatever I might need to communicate to a Chinese person. I am pretty good at drawing a chicken, for instance.

I suppose it might be counter-productive to the previously stated goal (of increasing my value in the job market, see paragraph No. 1 above), but the language I am learning has almost no commercial value. In fact, as I understand it (and I don’t understand it very well), there is only one other person who speaks it. And it doesn’t have a name. It would be a lot easier to tell you about it if it had a name (and this could be the reason there is only one other person who speaks it), but the easy part is that there are only 12 single-syllable “words,” as far as I can tell. Maybe 13. So far, I think I can understand three or four of them, but when I try to repeat them to my teacher, he laughs, and I can’t tell if that means I am saying them right or if I am so far off as to be ridiculous. And, as far as I can tell, he doesn’t speak any other language, so, really, when we meet for “lessons,” we usually just end up laughing a lot.

I’ll tell you more about it when I see you next time, but I was just so excited about it, I couldn’t keep it to myself.

Meanwhile, I went to see the movie “Certified Copy,” which was at Village 8 Theatres for two weeks recently. I am almost as excited about this movie as I am about the language I am learning. Like a perfect Philip K. Dick story, it seems to have two complete, possible interpretations.

Written and directed by Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, “Certified Copy” presents a day (or two) in the life of a middle-aged British writer (played by William Shimell) and a French woman (Juliette Binoche) living in Italy who comes to hear him present a lecture on his latest work, which has the same title as the movie. The book concerns the value of artistic forgeries, and the writer’s premise seems to be that copies help bring the viewer closer to the original, especially in a situation where the original is not at hand.

After the lecture, the two people take off into the Tuscan countryside and discuss art and authenticity, but the dynamic of their relationship becomes curious as there are suggestions that they know one another better than is apparent, and various passersby assume they have been married a long while.

Thereafter, they start playing with the idea of having been in a long-term relationship, or maybe as the day wears on, they let their guard down and start addressing long dormant issues. Do they know one another or not? Ultimately, the enigma of the back-story and the question of what happens next are what make the movie so compelling. It is, after all, like any narrative film, a fiction that exists to communicate a metaphor. In this case, it is an example of two people considering the possibility and authenticity of loving. It is a fake, no matter how we look at it, but it might bring us closer to the real thing if we give it a chance.

For further consideration: Orson Welles’ “F for Fake” is a good place to start your study of fakery.