Interview (Director: Steve Buscemi, USA, 2007): Interview is the first film in a planned trilogy of films honouring Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004. Each will be a remake of a Van Gogh film directed by an American actor (Steve Buscemi, Stanley Tucci, and Bob Balaban).
Van Gogh’s version of Interview was released in 2003 and played at the Toronto International Film Festival that year, where my wife saw it and enjoyed it. So as we both sat down to watch this tonight, Brooke was aware of all the plot twists and turns and thought I’d be surprised. I wasn’t.
The film is a two-hander with Steve Buscemi playing Pierre Peders, a rumpled political journalist who has been assigned, much to his chagrin, to interview a second-rate actress known simply as Katya (a feisty Sienna Miller), who is more known for her reputation than for her work. The majority of the action, if we can call it that, takes place in Katya’s enormous loft where the two alternately spar and flirt until each thinks they’ve extracted what they need from the other. In the original, the action is entirely confined to the apartment but Buscemi adds a bit of business at the beginning at a restaurant, and it’s an interesting choice.
After their initial restaurant meeting quickly dissolves into insults and they both storm out, Pierre is involved in a minor collision when his cab driver becomes distracted by the beautiful celebrity he sees walking down the street. Feeling a bit responsible, Katya takes Pierre back to her loft to recover. It’s unclear whether Buscemi is trying to show Katya as basically compassionate, or whether their initial bickering has aroused some sort of sexual attraction between the two. It remains a mystery thoughout the entire film, but in the end, the mystery is hollow, because both are exposed as the selfish and needy individuals that their professions make them. As well, their forced intimacy is accelerated onscreen by both characters drinking ludicrous amounts of alcohol, which felt artificial. The music, though used sparingly, felt a little “sitcom-y” (is that a word?), by which I mean that the tinkly xylophone seemed meant to defuse the intensity and make you think this was a light comedy.
It’s a clever script, and both actors are never less than watchable, but in the end, it never surprised and left me feeling a bit miserable. I’m not sure if the original was this misanthropic (although from what I know of Van Gogh, I expect that it was), but I think I’m disappointed that Buscemi, known for directing stories of flawed but essentially real human beings (ie. Trees Lounge), has failed to make these two more sympathetic. I felt almost exactly the same way about Closer (2004), another film with strong performances from actors playing unsympathetic characters. After both films, I felt slightly icky.
The film opens in Toronto on July 20.