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REVIEW: Interview

By Philip Martin

This article was published September 21, 2007 at 2:59 a.m.

— A celebrity interview is usually a soulless transaction: The celebrity has an agenda and often the journalist has no higher interest than demonstrating - to his audience or superiors - his proximity to the special tribe that lives on various screens worshipped by the numbstruck public. It's at best a cynical exchange, a few minutes of pretend intimacy for the promotion of an image.

Most people on both sides of the equation recognize the game for what it is. Most also recognize that those on the other side of the microphone or notebook are also human beings with all the problems that accrue to the condition. Sometimes the biggest egos belong not to the stars but to the journalists who think their assignments are beneath their dignity.

In Interview, Steve Buscemi digs a little around the sides of this dynamic, although the film lacks the ambition to attempt a full excavation. He plays slipping-down journalist Pierre, a Washington correspondent for a national newsweekly. But he has hit a bump in his career and his editor has tasked him with interviewing Katya (Sienna Miller), a TV sensation better known for her outre lifestyle than her professional work. She's starring in a series that sounds a bit like Sex and the City, and has about her the tragic feel of a contemporary Edie Sedgwick (a role Miller tried on in last year's half-baked Factory Girl).

Pierre is appropriately contemptuous of his subject. He's used to more important jobs and doesn't even bother to prepare for the interview, to which Katya predictably shows up an hour late. It doesn't help that they're meeting in a restaurant or that Katya feels the need to dislodge seated guests from "her table" or that Pierre hasn't seen any of her work.

Sometimes interviews implode this way, in a kind of mutual faltering and unwillingness to concede the basic reason for the business. You aren't there to make friends or to "connect," but to uphold your end of an unspoken bargain.

Pierre insults Katya and stalksout, but he suffers an accident, which requires her to take him to her nearby loft. Drugs and drinks come out and the two commence some vicious head games. There's flirting and meanness and moments of solidarity when they share - or seem to - dark secrets with each other. And in the end, they break up and go their own ways.

The movie feels more like a missed opportunity than an acid view of the adversarial relationship between hunter and prey. Pierre is a lying jerk and Katya is just as shallow and glib as the posters explain. Buscemi was likely more interested in paying homage to Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker famously murdered inAmsterdam a few years ago, who made the original version of this film. (He was also the original director on this project.)

Interview, like much of van Gogh's work, is provocative and witty but also possessed of a certain, almost cruel, smugness. The point seems to be that we're all acting all the time and there's no sure way to tell if any given moment is genuine. That's a fairly facile observation, hardly worth 86 minutes of mud wrestling. Rainer Werner Fassbinder might have been able to make us care for these characters; Buscemi and Miller are only able to get us to concede their chops.

Interview79Cast: Steve Buscemi, Sienna MillerDirector: Steve Buscemi Rating: No rating, intended for mature audiences Running time: 86 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 45 on 09/21/2007

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