Judge Franck Tabouring would have given anything to interview Sienna Miller.
Everything you say can and will be used against you.
In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was brutally murdered for a short film depicting violence against women in a Muslim community. Van Gogh had always been a devoted fan of Hollywood and the American culture, and he often spoke about his dream to remake three of his best films in the United States. So shortly after his tragic death, his producers got together and decided to put the late director's plans into action, contacting American filmmakers who would be interested in helming the first film. Steve Buscemi was one of their first choices and he immediately agreed, picking Interview as the first of three feature films to be remade in a series known as the Triple Theo Project.
Facts of the Case
Cynical journalist Pierre Peders (Steve Buscemi, Fargo) is pissed. He's supposed to be in Washington gearing up for an important press conference, but instead, his editor has flown him to New York to interview a movie star known only as Katya (Sienna Miller, Layer Cake). The two are supposed to meet in a restaurant, but she is an hour late and he is unprepared. You would think that the situation would improve once she gets there, but it doesn't. Pierre is extremely straightforward and tells her he hasn't seen any of her films and isn't at all interested in talking to her, while Katya is appalled at his unprofessional attitude and gets up and leaves.
When an unfortunate event inadvertently brings them back together, they both end up in Katya's apartment. What ensues is a night full of drinking, dancing, cursing, and sharing intimate secrets, some of which seem to bring the two strangers closer together, while others quickly destroy their newfound fragile trust. Strangely enough, none of them really knows how much of what they say is true, and how much is just acted. Needless to say, they are bound to find out…
Interview is quite a fascinating film. Focusing solely on its two protagonists, it carefully explores who they are as people, what draws them together and what eventually pushes them apart. The main reason as to why this movie is such a compelling character study is the fact that Pierre and Katya's appreciation for each other continually fluctuates. One minute they are running away from each other cursing, and the next, they are sharing the most intimate feelings and secrets.
I have to admit it is intriguing to observe how two people, whose first meeting was a real fiasco, are able to get so close to each other. When we first meet Pierre and Katya, it is hard to believe that they could ever connect. And yet they do. Or do they? Given their eccentric personalities and the nature of some of their conversations, the audience is constantly left wondering whether or not to believe the accuracy of their stories. After all, they are both totally unpredictable characters. Pierre goes against all journalistic principles, and his comments couldn't be more direct, and yet he seems to be compelled enough by her to stay. As for Katya, she's done hundreds of these interviews and is sick and tired of the press giving her a hard time, and yet she never really tells him to leave. They are worlds apart, and yet seem to share the same fate. They both feel empty, miserable, and alone.
With Katya being an actress, you might wonder whether she's just playing a role or actually telling the truth. Since Pierre is an experienced journalist, it's hard to figure out the real purpose of his personal questions. For instance, why is he so interested in the nature of her sadness? Does he really care about her as a human being, or does he try to lure her into a trap for the sole purpose of publishing the truths about her private life? Does he really feel he can save her, or could his involvement in her secrets also be his downfall? Interview is filled with such intriguing questions, and you'll find it impossible to take your eyes off the screen until you've found the answers.
Of course, the movie is also a social commentary on media. Pierre and Katya share several thoughts on this matter, and closely reflect on their careers. I'm not going into further detail at this stage because I sure don't want to spoil it, but all I can say is that the majority of the dialogue is gripping and ingenious at once.
Steve Buscemi's direction is flawless, and he decided to go with long takes. These can sometimes slow down the entire pace of the film, but the witty dialogue and eccentricities of the main characters in Interview keep the plot moving at a high speed. The movie was shot exclusively in a spacious loft, which gave the filmmakers the opportunity to divide the location into different small areas to avoid a boring background. Clever production design enables the actors to move along the location without being stuck in the same corner twice.
In a film with only two people who share intense conversations, solid acting is crucial. In casting Sienna Miller for the role of Katya, Buscemi made the perfect choice. An actress playing an actress is always a real challenge, but Miller handles it well. Buscemi too offers a diverse performance as the scary journalist who doesn't seem to care about anything that is not related to politics. He and Miller share a wonderful chemistry, and their connection works beautifully.
Lighting is a crucial issue in a film that was entirely shot at night and in which the actors spend most of the time inside a loft, but the production crew did an excellent job at finding the right balance. The quality of the picture is top-notch all throughout and the video transfer as a whole looks clean and sharp enough. This also applies to the sound. Music is mostly absent in the movie and dialogue clearly dominates, but it's always crisp and loud enough to understand everything the characters say.
For those who feel especially intrigued by the psychological clash between Pierre and Katya and want to learn more about the film, the special features section on the Interview DVD offers a variety of compelling information. There's a six-minute behind-the-scenes featurette in which members of the cast and crew briefly discuss the plot of the movie and reveal some interesting details about the shooting. Steve Buscemi also talks about why he decided to direct and take over the lead role. This piece is particularly interesting because he further discusses his compelling approach to directing and in what ways he always tries and sometimes even struggles to get the best out of himself and his actors.
Also included on the disc is "Triple Theo: Take One," a highly informative, 13-minute featurette that focuses on Theo Van Gogh's career as Holland's most popular director. Steve Buscemi and producers Bruce Weiss and Gijs Van De Westelaken discuss Van Gogh's dream to remake three of his films in the United States, and Buscemi further explains why he picked Interview and what fascinated him about the original movie. Interestingly, this piece also steps behind the scenes and shows to what extent the filmmakers wanted to keep a certain Theo Van Gogh flair in the remake. Buscemi for instance, adopted Van Gogh's camera techniques and had the latter's entire camera department flown in to assist with the production.
The most engaging and most informative bonus is Steve Buscemi's feature-length commentary, during which he talks about most scenes in detail, and why he chose to direct them the way he did. He also offers his viewers an insight into the main characters, describing some of their actions and motivations, and to what extent their peculiar relationship evolves throughout the movie. Filmmaker commentaries are usually quite enlightening if you seek detailed information about a movie, and Buscemi reveals some gripping facts about the production of Interview. Besides focusing on the importance of rehearsals and little details about the music and the location of the set, he also comments on Theo Van Gogh's original and mentions some comparisons and differences between the two movies. I highly recommend watching the movie a second time with the commentary turned on.
In case you were wondering, Interview is not Steve Buscemi's first directorial effort. Back in 1996, he helmed a comedy entitled Trees Lounge, and he most recently directed Lonesome Jim, a comedy about a 27-year-old man who moves back in with his parents. Films limited to two actors and 90 minutes of dialogue can be a major turnoff for people, but as long as the story is compelling enough and the characters are unique and captivating, I can only recommend them. It may take some time to get used to these generally slow-moving plots, but once you jump in, it's really hard to resist them. All in all, Interview is an interesting experiment that merits recognition.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director Steve Buscemi
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