On November 2, 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (the grand-nephew of Vincent, the famous painter) was murdered by a religious extremist on a street in Amsterdam. The murderer shot van Gogh several times, slit his throat and then attached a five page note to the filmmaker's chest with a knife. The grisly murder set off a series of attacks and counter-attacks between Christians and Muslims and rocked the foundations of Dutch society, which is famous for its unusual tolerance.
Van Gogh was a provocative writer, a newspaper columnist, a television personality and a film director, who made thirteen features. Before his death, van Gogh had decided to remake three of his films in English; Interview is the first in the Triple Theo series. (The others are Blind Date directed by Stanly Tucci, starring Tucci and Patricia Clarkson and 06, which will be directed by John Turturro.)
Interview seems more like an adaptation of a stage play than of another movie. It is a two-character drama, which takes place mostly in a New York loft apartment. Sienna Miller plays Katya, a tabloid starlet doing a round of interviews to publicize her latest exploitation flick. Everyone, it seems, just loves Katya. She's the current "It" girl, on the cover of every magazine and interviewed so often she can answer the usual mundane questions in her sleep.
Steve Buscemi, who also directs, plays Pierre Peders, a world-weary, veteran news reporter who has been assigned to interview the starlet, a task he believes -- and takes no pains to hide -- is monumentally beneath him. Peders is obviously washed up. At the start of the film, he is angling with his editor to get reassigned to a big, breaking political news story unfolding in Washington, D.C., but is rebuffed. Naturally Katya is late for the interview and Peders is well into his cups by the time she arrives.
As the film progresses, the interview becomes increasingly adversarial, peppered with emotional revelations and quiet retreats. Sometimes the character tropes work, sometimes they don't. The characters are both tired of the claustrophobic roles they have constructed for themselves and of the ones they are expected to play, but they just plod on anyway. It's a little suffocating.
I guess I don't really GET Sienna Miller. I thought she was terrible as Edie Sedgewick in Factory Girl, but that film was so poorly conceived and directed that one could hardly blame her for the lack. However, in Interview she plays essentially the same character, a very bright, but frivolous manipulator -- an up and coming starlet (which isn't that much of a stretch) -- and still I don't buy it. Here there is a double whammy, she is an actress ACTING a half-hearted seduction, so it should feel a little forced, a little disingenuous -- and it does. Pierre is supposed to look like a fool when he falls for the half-hearted come on. But COME ON! Perhaps the problem with that scenario is that it is just -- soooo -- YAWN!
I wish I had seen the original Interview. Buscemi describes Theo van Gogh as a "bit of a surrealist." He says, "His Interview reminded me a little of a Buñuel film where opposing characters are trapped in a room with each other and mysteriously unable to separate." Buscemi's version has that feeling of being trapped, but the characters are only a little vicious and the stakes aren't really all that high. They aren't hard enough, aren't damaging enough to make the experience really worthwhile. Just as Katya pretends to be one character type after another, Interview hits each well-worn note with the same amount of professional artifice to keep us interested, but there's nothing much left when the struggle stops and the argument fades away.
Interview now playing.