Those who know that Steve Buscemi‘s new film, “Interview” is a remake of a 2003 film of the same name by Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was brutally murdered in 2004 by a militant Islamist for his outspoken condemnation of Muslim treatment of women, may be surprised by how commonplace the film is. A psychological pas de deux between a reporter and a starlet, “Interview,” transplanted to a cavernous downtown Manhattan loft, resembles nothing so much as a proficient, glib off-Broadway piece, purporting to examine preconceived notions about celebrity and journalism but more often interested in actorly histrionics.
But while Van Gogh’s legacy as a controversial, anti-establishment, anticlerical thinker could be better benefited than from this puff piece in disguise, “Interview” does provide director/leading man Buscemi and Sienna Miller with a dirty little playground on which to cavort and chew scenery.
Disgruntled and self-righteous, high-end magazine journalist Pierre Peters finds himself assigned, against his wishes, to write a celebrity profile about an apparently widely lusted after soap opera star, just named Katya (Sienna Miller). The physical disparity between the dyspeptic pencil-necked journalist and the leggy brash blonde, and all the kneejerk power plays that emerge therein, make for an amusing, if overly telegraphed first meeting. Peters, angered that he must sit across a restaurant table from this ostensibly empty-headed Hollywood honey rather than be sent to Washington just as controversy erupts at the White House, shows perhaps too much obvious disdain, eliciting the ire of Katya, who’s unused to having men not fawn all over her. After they part ways, fate (and a nasty bump on the head) conspires to bring them back together, and the two end up picking away at each other’s defenses bit by bit, until, naturally they are left emotionally naked.
Or are they? One of the minute pleasures of “Interview” is that rather than reveal the upstanding Peters as a weasel and the seemingly vapid Katya as a poor damaged little girl, Buscemi (and, by extension, Van Gogh) show their alleged soul bearing as just one more performance. In fact, what “Interview” amounts to is an elaborate game of cultural hide and seek; if it ends up not revealing very much about its main players, that’s because they’ve created so many layers of subterfuge about themselves that it’s become increasingly difficult to find where the private identity stops and the public begins, the real and the imagined. Buscemi and Miller nimbly enact this dance, even if his seething punctiliousness and her party-girl theatrics seem entirely too constructed: though that may be the point, it would have been nice to see more glimmers of the people beneath the veneers.
[Michael Koresky is co-founder and editor of Reverse Shot and the managing editor at the Criterion Collection.]