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July 18-24, 2007

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Euro Vision

Van Gogh remake 'Interview' pits starlet against grizzled journo

By Richard von Busack


Toward the end, after he'd become a national joke, Errol Flynn commented that he'd wanted people to take him seriously, even if he'd never given them a reason to do so. Sienna Miller's Katya in the new film Interview has the same problem. As star of Killer Body IV and TV's City Girls, Katya doesn't need a last name and is better known for her liaisons and her boob-reduction surgery than for her acting.

The Interview of this indie-film's title is Katya's long, up-close and personal session with dour and hard-drinking Newsworld magazine journalist Pierre Peders (a dick by any other name--and twice in this case). The film's director, Steve Buscemi, plays him, with glasses on and with a gruff, cut-the-crap-sister take on his evening with the famous lady.

The interview begins in a restaurant but soon moves to Katya's apartment after the starlet accidentally injures the journalist. Internal and external scarring, and a taste for too much bourbon, complicates the game between hunter and quarry inside Katya's vast loft. Meanwhile, her cell phone keeps whimpering all night long--literally, since she put a whining puppy's voice on her ring tone.

There's something interesting going on here, and it's the bigger background, not what they're discussing. Pierre is a bitter ex-foreign correspondent busted down to the celebrity beat; from one angle, he's a casualty of the trend away from hard news and toward fluff. But the specifics of this particular dance don't have much believability to them; the unscrupulousness is too thick even for celebrity journalism. (They have lawyers and they have handlers, so where's the photographer?)

We're supposed to accept his lack of professionalism and his refusal to have tried to find out a little something about her before the interview begins. But one's sympathy goes to Katya and stays there: she's an imposed-upon hostess. Once you're in your own home, being bothered by a guest, can't you tell any lie about yourself that you please?

In a really equilateral movie, the balance between these two--the glamorous non-actress and the bruised, angry hack--would seem just about even. It tries to stay even with a matched set of lines: "I don't fuck celebrities." "I don't fuck nobodies." Interview insists that in every relationship--even in every interview--there's a winner and a loser. I won't argue the point, even though the journalists I care about work very hard to be symbiotes instead of parasites.

Maybe I'm focusing too hard on the specifics of this battle of wills, and that it's supposed to be about all men and all women. Even so, this contest is too one-sided for continued interest. It's clear where the chips will fall. And Interview also makes clear the division between a movie and what is essentially a filmed play. Compared to the limitless scope of a film, we know the action in Interview can't leave, that the two characters have to stay until they kill each other, fall sobbing into each other's arms or get naked. And wouldn't you know it, Buscemi is the one who ends up baring his chest.

Buscemi shows his class as actor, his "funny-looking" man's dignity, his comedy within drama. He is among the best we have, and it's his presence that redeems this remake of a film by the martyred Dutch director Theo van Gogh. Known as the "Triple Theo," a triptych of American remakes of van Gogh's films is underway, Interview being the first, a project the director planned to undertake before his assassination in 2004.

Miller, whose fault Factory Girl wasn't, is rising fast; she's easy on the eyes with her tattooed shoulders and a surfer-girl, grown-out-blonde dye job. She has too much firepower for the role of Katya. No one would ever confuse an actor of Miller's quality with a slasher-movie flooze.


Movie Times 'Interview' opens on Friday, July 20, at the Century CineArts at Sequoia, 24 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley. 415.388.4862.


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