On November 2, 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered on a bustling street in Amsterdam as he rode his bike to work. Van Gogh's murderer, a radical Islamist, shot him eight times, slashed open his throat, and left a five-page letter pinned to his chest with a knife. The attack was a savage response to van Gogh's 2004 short film, Submission, a ten-minute lamentation on the problem of violence toward women in certain Islamic societies. Thus was born the legend of Theo van Gogh -- suffering artist, free-speech martyr, persecuted prophet.
Before his death, van Gogh resolved to remake three of his previous films, this time in English and set in New York City. Now, with the help of three notable actor-directors -- Steve Buscemi
, Stanley Tucci
, and John Turturro
-- van Gogh's vision is being realized in the form of the Triple Theo Project. Interview, Buscemi's contribution, is the first film in the series. Article continues below
The original Interview is little more than an enjoyable trifle, and so it is with Buscemi's remake. The film is for the most part a two-person show, a feature-length dialogue between a seemingly vapid Hollywood starlet, Katya (Sienna Miller
), and the cynical political journalist, Pierre (Buscemi), assigned to interview her. Their initial meeting gets off to a rocky start when Katya shows up an hour late to the restaurant where they've agreed to meet, whereupon Pierre reveals that hasn't seen any of her movies or done a whit of research on her life and career. Not long after, Katya decides to end the interview and leaves the restaurant in a huff.
Katya's character is an amalgam of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan
, and every other celebutante flashing her crotch on the pages of the gossip rags. Her talents are questionable, her drug intake is steady, and her love life is the subject of public fascination. Pierre, for his part, is a man of quick intellect and sharp elbows. He'd rather be covering the latest Beltway intrigue than drinking overpriced scotch in a trendy Manhattan hotspot, and he isn't afraid to let Katya know it.
With his interview shot, Pierre hails a cab to take him home, but the cabbie is too busy gawking at the sight of Katya to notice a truck parked in the street. He rams into it, leaving Pierre with a shiner from the impact. Katya offers him a drink and an icepack at her nearby apartment. It is in this setting -- a capacious, smartly appointed Manhattan loft -- that the rest of the film's action takes place.
Interview is basically an actor's showcase. The script works subtly to reveal the core of Katya and Pierre's characters, placing a heavy burden on Buscemi and Miller's performances. Their characters repeatedly creep toward some type of delicate intimacy and then find ways to withdraw from it. Buscemi plays Pierre with restraint. His movements are awkward and self-conscious. The expressions on his face are bridled by a lifetime of hassles and disappointments. Miller's work is much more expansive. She gambols and frolics around the apartment in a seductively feline way, delivering every line as if it were perched on the edge of deceit.
It's a tall order to maintain an engaging story with the same two faces filling the screen from start to finish, but Buscemi succeeds in doing so. Interview's slight 83-minute running time has something to with it, but so also does his skill as a director. As a tribute to van Gogh, Buscemi apparently adopted his technique of filming. Buscemi shot with three cameras running simultaneously -- one on each of the actors and the other devoted to master shots -- and the results are dynamic. From its opening frame to its final revelation, Interview hums with life.