(No longer in theaters)
Jul 13, 2007
Interview is a two-actor psychodrama that evolves into a cat-and-mouse game, with each character getting the upper hand. It’s rife with hairpin emotional turns, deceptions, confessions, and dredged-up secrets. I’ve sat through so many claustrophobic examples of the genre I forgot how exhilarating, how pure a great one could be. Interview is a great one—electric as theater and cinema. Steve Buscemi adapted it (with David Schechter) from a 2003 film (not incendiary) by the murdered Dutch director Theo van Gogh. He plays Pierre Peders, a politics and war correspondent who’s ordered to interview a gorgeous (and famously vapid, promiscuous) movie and TV star, Katya (Sienna Miller). She feigns ordinariness but radiates entitlement. He wears his contempt like a boutonnière. The nightmare celebrity interview: I’ve been there. In a few choice exchanges, you’re bludgeoned with the artificiality of the exercise—cynical journalist meets star with fortresslike defenses in sterile setting. (See Jancee Dunn’s fun memoir, But Enough About Me, for a dissection.) Tensions escalate. He calls her “Cuntya,” she tells him to fuck himself, end of interview. But not end of Interview—which somehow relocates its antagonists to Katya’s vast Tribeca loft for a game of psychological spin the bottle.
In school, I spent weeks breaking down an Ibsen masterpiece into dramatic “beats”: small units of dialogue that end in sudden reversals or shifts in focus. Good writers, good directors, good actors, know the change of beat is the pulse of any scene. Buscemi is a brilliant writer, director, and actor, and each beat in Interview is crystalline. Katya’s cell phone goes off with a ring that sounds like a dog yapping: irritating as hell. Pierre watches Katya on her phone on her bed, her long legs in the air, the actress erotically in tune with her beautiful “instrument.” Pierre lacerates Katya for lack of talent in everything but seduction, Katya shows her power by coming on to and rejecting him, Pierre snaps he doesn’t fuck celebrities, Katya hisses she doesn’t fuck nobodies. As Pierre grows more drunk and devious, our sympathies begin to turn. We see that Katya’s counteroffensives are a mark of sanity.
I wonder if Sienna Miller came up short as Edie Sedgwick because, no matter how hard she tried (and how good she was), she couldn’t be a blank, a non-actress. She’s a stupendous actress. Her Katya is lazy but wily—and increasingly turned on by the game she keeps insisting she doesn’t want to play. The dance—the surrender that’s really a tease—keeps her en pointe. In some ways, the last half-hour is a letdown. Things come to a melodramatic head: The evening ends with a winner and a loser, a hero and a villain, instead of staying tantalizingly amorphous. But the grip of Interview never slackens. This is the movie with the beat you can’t stop.