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Interview (2007)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A Remake That Does Not Pass Van Gogh"
3 stars

When he was alive and kicking, the works of provocative Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh got relatively little play in America outside of the festival circuit and a few brief art-house runs. However, thanks to the notoriety bestowed upon him following his shocking 2004 murder at the hands of Muslim extremists who were incensed at the way he depicted their religion in the controversial short film “,” Van Gogh has now received the most profound posthumous tribute that the American film industry could possibly bestow with “Interview,” a tepid and only fitfully interesting remake of his own 2003 feature of the same name.

Steve Buscemi (also co-wrote and directed) stars as Pierre Peders, a political correspondent who has recently run afoul of his editors and has been reassigned to write puff pieces for the entertainment section. His first assignment is to meet and interview Katya (Sienna Miller) so that she can promote the latest bubbleheaded entertainment that she is featured in. Needless to say, Pierre doesn’t take too well to this demotion or to his subject (“She’s more famous for who she sleeps with!”) and when she is more than an hour late for their restaurant rendezvous, he is fit to be tied. However, once the interview begins, it turns out that he himself is woefully unprepared for their chat (he never bothered to watch the screener of the movie she is ostensibly supposed to be discussing) and the questions that he does ask are so curt and condescending that she leaves the restaurant in a huff after a few minutes. Inevitably, they meet up again a few minutes later and they decide to start from square one in the quieter confines of her loft. For the next hour or so, they banter, flirt, fight and make painful confessions in an extended conversation that proves to each of them that there is more (or less) to the other person than meets the eye.

Although I don’t remember the exact details of Van Gogh’s film with pinpoint clarity, Buscemi’s take seems to follow the parameters of the original to a large extent (though I seem to recall that the original never left the confines of the apartment). For example, the actress in the original film was played by Katja Schuurman, a Dutch actress who was considered to be more of a sexbomb than a genuine actress and it was thus considered to be a surprise that she possessed the sort of dramatic depth required to play opposite acclaimed actor Pierre Bokma for a director of Van Gogh’s stature. Here, Buscemi has cast Sienna Miller, a star who, despite some good performances in the past in “Alfie” and the shreds of “Factory Girl” that were released, is still presumably better known by most people for her off-screen life. It is a smart move because in what is essentially a two-person, one-set film, Miller manages to hold her own against the more seasoned likes of Buscemi and if enough people see this film, it should help her get the meatier parts that it would appear that she is clamoring to do.

That said, it is unlikely that many are going to want to see “Interview” in the first place because the film as a whole grows steadily more tedious as it progresses. Part of it is the inescapable fact that American culture is so media savvy at this point in time that most people are likely to find the circumstances behind the central interview to be patently unbelievable–there is no way that a person like Katya is going to bring a journalist like Pierre back to her apartment for an evening of baring body and soul, especially without having a handler or manager on hand to make sure that the discussion stays on topic instead of drifting off into the uncharted waters seen here. Even if we are willing to swallow that conceit, the film is still unable to avoid the inescapable fact that the movie-length conversation simply isn’t very interesting. They offer no unique insights on their respective positions in the world. Throughout the film, they each undergo wild mood swings for no other reason than the screenplay requires them to act that way Most inauspiciously, their final truth-telling revelations aren’t that earth-shattering and when we later discover the real truths behind them, the last-minutes switcheroos are too preposterous to be believed.

“Interview” isn’t a complete bastardization of Van Gogh’s work–Buscemi clearly holds him in high esteem and there are numerous little tributes to the man sprinkled throughout the film (not to mention a cameo from Schuurman towards the end). However the feel for characters that he demonstrated in such previous directorial efforts as “Trees Lounge” and the “Pine Barrens” episode of “The Sopranos” is largely absent here–this is a surprisingly anonymous work from someone who has created so many distinct characters over the years. Perhaps his ultimate plan here was not to fuse his sensibility with Van Gogh’s as much as it was to create a film that might inspire viewers to seek out Van Gogh’s work for themselves. If that is indeed the case, you may as well proceed directly to Van Gogh and do not stop at “Interview.”

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16394&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/20/07 00:39:23
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/26/08 Ozzie in short miller doesnt have cancer, Buscemi killed wife, miller keeps confesion on tape. 2 stars
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  13-Jul-2007 (R)
  DVD: 11-Dec-2007



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