Interview

(2007) *** R
84 min. Sony Pictures Classics. Director: Steve Buscemi. Cast: Sienna Miller, Steve Buscemi, James Franco.

Celebrity interviews come in many forms. There's the junket, at which writers are wined, dined, and even flown in gratis to what's essentially a weekend-long party in L.A. or New York. There's the "personal appearance tour," where the talent makes its way around the world to press the flesh with press. Both of these forms afford limited time and access to the subjects. But then there's the profile interview, a long form in which journalists stringing for the biggest outlets (think GQ, Vogue—) shadow celebrities and try to pull back their veils of secrecy.

Of course, celebrity interviews all have one thing in common: they're games in which the prize of truth always turns out to be a booby one. In Interview, adapted by Steve Buscemi from the Dutch film of the same name, a celebrity interview proves once again that truth is elusive. The interviewer, Pierre (Buscemi), considers his assignment to profile pop diva/actress Katya (Sienna Miller) an unsavory "puff piece." Katya considers the brusque journo condescending and unprepared.

But as their halting interview moves from an upscale restaurant to Katya's loft, the conversation becomes unpredictable and eventually runs off the rails entirely. Professional and ethical lines are crossed, and the interviewer often becomes the interviewee. Clearly neither the reporter (looking for career redemption, in any form, and at any cost) and the actress (who lies for a living) can be trusted, and only the audience holds all the cards—or do they? Among other puzzlers, Katya's sexuality is in doubt: she appears to have both a girlfriend and a fiancé.

Interview charms in large part due to the performances of the two stars. Buscemi's in fine fettle with his trademark acid wit, but also the appearance of soulful vulnerability. Miller matches her director with playful barbs, laser-like intensity, and dark abandon. Simmering hostility comes out in very funny exchanges, but also layered, subtle dialogue by which the characters unwittingly reveal more about themselves than they'd want anyone to know.

The film also succeeds through the meeting of minds between Buscemi and the film's original writer-director, the late Theo van Gogh (van Gogh was murdered by an Islamic extremist in 2004). Buscemi adapts his own technique, honed in three previous features and on TV shows like The Sopranos, to work within van Gogh's controlled style: a fast-paced shoot with three handheld digital cameras, one per actor and one to capture the big picture.

Interview does the same, giving us gripping close-ups on two damaged individuals, then pulling back to show us the big, satisfying picture—or, in interview terms, to reveal who gets the last word in this relational war of wills.

[For Groucho's interview with Steve Buscemi, click here.]

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Dvd

Aspect ratios: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Street date: 12/11/2007

Distributor: Sony Home Entertainment

As is its wont, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment delivers an impeccable audio-visual experience for the DVD of Interview. There's also a strong collection of special features, including a steady stream of information from director-star Buscemi on a screen-specific audio commentary. Buscemi explains the film's origins and explains the differences (and the reasons for the differences) between his film and van Gogh's.

"Interview: Behind the Scenes" (06:36) naturally includes the comments of Buscemi and Miller, as well as American Screenplay writer David Schechter. Serving up terrific rehearsal and on-set footage, it's a pithy look at the making of the film. "Triple Theo, Take One" (13:49) goes in-depth on the origins of the project as one of three planned remakes of Theo van Gogh films. Buscemi, Miller, Schecter, actress Tara Elders, producers Gijs van de Westelaken and Bruce Weiss, original "Katja" Katja Schuurman, script supervisor Doesjka van Hoogdalem, production supervisor Ellen Havenith, and original screenwriter Theodor Holman are on hand to discuss van Gogh and the 2003 Interview, seen in clips.

Rounding out the disc are previews for Paprika, Molière, Youth Without Youth, Angel-A, Vitus, Romance & Cigarettes, The Jane Austen Book Club, When Did You Last See Your Father? and The Counterfeiters. Buscemi fans can't afford not to add Interview to their collections.
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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