BY MOLLY TEMPLETON
INTERVIEW: Directed by Steve Buscemi. Written by Buscemi and David Schechter, based on the film by Theo van Gogh, written by Theodor Holman. Cinematography, Thomas Kist. Starring Sienna Miller and Steve Buscemi. Sony Pictures Classics, 2007. R. 83 minutes.
Interview is a film with a history more interesting than the movie itself. It’s a remake of a film by Theo van Gogh, the Dutch writer, filmmaker and TV host who was murdered in 2004, as the production notes explain, “because of his strong writings against radical Islam and especially because of his short film Submission: Part 1.” Interview is the first of three van Gogh films to be remade in a New York setting; all three films will borrow van Gogh’s techniques and his camera crew, including cinematographer Thomas Kist.
Kist creates a tension and tightness in Interview‘s loft setting, shrinking and expanding the sprawling space in time with the dialogue. The film tells the terse story of two people, a journalist, Pierre (Buscemi), and an actress, Katya (Sienna Miller). A scheduled interview quickly dissolves when the two immediately butt heads, but in the street afterwards, Pierre is slightly injured in a silly, contrived car accident that Katya feels (and basically is) responsible for. Improbably, she takes him to her nearby loft, where bourbon, red wine, numerous cigarettes and endless stories carry them deep into the night.
There are moments of brightness in Interview — brief seconds where the dialogue becomes crisp enough to lift the film above its characters’ incessant sparring, or where the ever-shifting connection between these two dishonest people feels, just for a second, true. But for the most part, the film is a heavy-handed battle of wits, with profession and gender hovering nearby. Sexual tension, a screwy father-daughter dynamic, the telling of secrets and lies: It carries on and on, topics diverting and tempers flaring. Buscemi is solid, as always, and Miller displays a talent for shifting moods in a heartbeat; it’s her kittenish ferocity that keeps the movie afloat. But the tiny sparks never catch, and Interview, for all its talking, seems to have little to say other than that people look out for themselves, and some are more manipulative — and better actors — than others. — Molly Templeton
Interview opens Friday, Aug. 10, at the Bijou.