Director: Steve Buscemi
Screenwriters: David Schechter, Steve Buscemi
Producers: Bruce Weiss, Gijs van de Westelaken
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Sienna Miller
U.S.A., 2006, 86 min.
*Based on the late Dutch director Theo Van Gogh's film of the same name, Interview is a passionate verbal duel between two fundamentally opposed characters, portrayed by two immensely gifted actors.
Respected political journalist Pierre Peters has made a name for himself in war correspondence. But to his utter dismay, he has been sidetracked by his editor and assigned to interview the country's hottest young actress, Katja, a star of television and bad--but extremely successful--movies. Every day, fans and tabloids chase her, and there isn't a man who wouldn't love to spend an evening with her…except for Pierre. As the night progresses, they get more than they bargained for, and the interview derails into a battle of wits, desires, and deep, dark secrets.
Steve Buscemi, who stars and directs, expertly uses the rhythm of language to give life to what could have been a static film. He and Sienna Miller demonstrate formidable talent as their characters engage, with apprehension and tension, in a choreographed intimacy that becomes increasingly combustible. A moral chess match where anything goes, Interview successfully and intelligently dissects ego, journalistic ethics, and the idea of celebrity in our culture today.
*Summary by Trevor Groth, SUNDANCE Film Programmer
Interview was quite a divisive film at Sundance this year, and from the response it has received in the mainstream over the past few weeks, the reactions outside of the festival circuit are equally discordant. I was one of the ones who didn’t think too much of this film. It jumped deep into its subject matter, and it sure looked like the actors were trying hard, I just felt it was pretentious and ‘actorly.’ This film seemed to be begging for attention, ‘look at me! I’m attacking journalistic integrity and popping celebrity pompousness! I am so indie!’ That show-offy attitude just turned me off. Things that would never, EVER, happen in real life happened continually here, and that disturbed me when this was supposed to be a film dissecting real life issues. I felt that I couldn’t connect to either character, both were jerks, assholes, and a lot worse depending on if you believed in their confessions or not.
The majority of the film is shot in one location, in Katya (Sienna Miller)’s apartment, and that is a serious problem with the film. I feel that when a film is based in one location, there is a tendency for directors to drape their actors over every piece of furniture so that they can use every square inch of that room. So, when Katya is telling some story to Pierre (Steve Buscemi), at one point she sprawls out over her kitchen table, then in her hammock, in strange positions over her couch, it just fells fake and like stage direction. It also means that there is a lot of angry comings and goings. Pierre would get mad for a minute and storm out, only to come back into the apartment for some reason so the filmmakers can create some distance and drama. I know for a certainty that Steve Buscemi is a good actor, he has a great range and can play some quirky, interesting roles, but his performance is hampered by the sexual chemistry that Pierre and Katya are supposed to share. There is no chemistry there. Steve Buscemi is mis-cast in the role, it really should have been someone more attractive or charming, and then I think the innuendo of their encounter would have sold more. My jury is still out on the acting talents of Sienna Miller, her spoiled actress feels like a cliché.
I don’t want to beat down on the movie too hard, there are definitely some intriguing parts. They are just vastly outnumbered by the bad ones. The opening dinner scene was fantastic, I really enjoyed the uncomfortable silences and the veiled threats between two strangers forced to be together. It was edgy and subtle. Some of the confessions that Katya and Pierre gave to each other were very well done, some of the stories to be told by these characters are quite shocking, and it was nice to see those bits pulled off well. Unfortunately, these good portions of the film lead me right into the bad moments. The double-cross of the taped confessions in the end feels forced and awkward. A key moment relies upon whether Pierre switched a tape back into the video camera. It is confusing to keep track of what incriminating tape is where in the finale and this puzzlement does not help an audience recognize the setup of the double-cross. There are also some confusing jump cuts at crucial moments that glaze over emotional beats. At one point, Pierre hits Katya in anger, but then we cut right to Pierre confessing a story to her in a calm manner and miss the entire aftermath of that violent blow. In a film trying to detail each beat and moment of conversation and in a scene building to that moment of unleashed anger, why was the audience cheated out of the aftermath?I don’t want to say much more about this film, because I like Buscemi and I think he should continue to pursue his directing urges. The film looks very nice, and there are some fine moments. There just were just too many moments in the film where I could feel the actors acting, the director directing, and the screenwriter pompously philosophizing.