INTERVIEW directed by Steve Buscemi, written by Buscemi and David Schechter from a screenplay by Theodor Holman, with Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller. 83 minutes. Opens Friday (July 20). Rating: NN
Interview is part of a project to remake three of the films of Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch director best known in North America for the manner of his death. He was murdered by a Muslim extremist in Amsterdam three years ago.
I knew Van Gogh slightly back in the 80s when he was a regular on the festival circuit and David Overbey was furiously programming Dutch films at TIFF as one of his many "next big things." Van Gogh was funny and vulgar, and you didn't want to drink with him unless you had an alcoholic's capacity.
In Holland, he was known as a provocateur in print and on television; he was willing to offend anyone, and often did. (For a fuller explanation, read Ian Buruma's superb reportage on the murder and its social context, Murder In Amsterdam. The paperback will be out at the end of August.)
A lot of the contempt in Interview is in the original film. Van Gogh's early films, particularly A Day At The Beach and False Light, benefited from a chilly formalism that gave way to a low-budget Cassavetes-like approach: lock a couple of actors up and let them tear at each other. Here, Steve Buscemi plays a fading political journalist assigned to interview a pretty soap actor (Sienna Miller) whose idea of a fun hiatus is to do cheap horror movies.
Ignore for the moment the implausibilities of this film: popular actors do not wander off to meet journalists on their own in restaurants, they certainly don't invite them back to their homes, and they almost never do coke in front of them.
What comes through is the original film's disdain for both reporters and actors. The performers are excellent - Buscemi can play this sort of hangdog, rage-fuelled loser without working at it, but he works at it anyway, and Miller is more impressive here than she was in Factory Girl. But the film doesn't like either character; it doesn't give us a reason to care about their fates, despite the psychobabble about absent fathers and dead children.
This material might make a great short. Perhaps John Turturro can do something with his adaptation of Van Gogh's phone sex picture - another tale, now that I think about it, that would make a great short.