December 9, 2007

Reviewed by Monika Bartyzel

Theo van Gogh, a distant relative of the famous Vincent, was not only a Dutch filmmaker. He was also an outspoken figure who was gruesomely and tragically killed for his work on the short film Submission, which detailed violence against Muslim women in Islamic societies. Being a fan of American cinema, he had planned to start English-language remakes of a handful of his films. After his murder, his friends continued his plan, setting Steve Buscemi to direct Interview, Stanley Tucci to direct Blind Date, and Bob Balaban to direct 1-900. Interview was brought together first, and the others, which were stalled by funding issues, are finally coming together. Tucci is currently working on Date, and John Tuturro has taken over production of the final story.

I’m usually very apprehensive of foreign remakes – especially those which claim to be an act of spreading the word about a foreign filmmaker. Buzz and imported DVDs spread the word of the filmmaker, while remakes just spread the idea of a specific film. Yet with Buscemi’s Interview, you can feel van Gogh within the piece, from the early fan with the name Theo, to the Van Gogh moving truck that drives by, and the picture of Theo on Katya’s table – also technically through the techniques van Gogh employed in his own films.

Interview is, as it sounds, the story of an interview. However, this is not your normal Q&ampA. Pierre (Buscemi), a political correspondent, has been sent to interview a famous, sexy B-actress called Katya (Sienna Miller). Things don’t get off to a good start. Pierre is not happy to be there, and Katya is running an hour late. When she finally arrives, Pierre is fed up and treats the young actress harshly and rudely. They only make it through one drink before Katya leaves. However, a strange twist of fate involving a taxi crash finds Pierre in Katya’s apartment, and the interview continuing in a strange, tense, and intimate way. The pair are both drawn to each other and repulsed by each other, which leads to a rolling conversation of hidden secrets and lies.

Special Features

I wish this could be a double-disc feature that pairs this remake with the original, but instead, we’ve got just the film and a handful of special features – a decent offering served in three features. Unlike Waitress, which I noted never spoke of how Adrienne Shelly died, this disc doesn’t go into particulars, but it does give a decent overview for those unfamiliar with the filmmaker and his death.

Behind-the-Scenes – The normal sort of behind-the-scenes fare, this featurette shows some rehearsal footage and lots of discussion with both Buscemi and Miller. Scored with music from the film, it’s a brief and entertaining clip to start to dig into how this movie was made, which is followed by the particulars of the next feature.

TRIPLE THEO: Take One – This featurette describes how van Gogh’s vision of US remakes came to be – including scenes from both films, and interviews with Buscemi and van Gogh’s collaborators – including producer Gijs van de Westelaken and original star Katya Schuurman. It’s a great feature that describes Theo’s love of actors, how the films were picked, and how they went about employing the slain director’s style and feel.

Audio Commentary with Steve Buscemi – This is more of the same, a nice look into his thoughts on the scenes and motivations of the actors, since Buscemi sees his directorial process through his acting. It’s worth a listen, although it would’ve been nice to hear discussion with others involved with the film, even if done briefly via speakerphone, as some commentaries do.

Final Words

With a name like Interview, you know that this isn’t some serving of action and wild intrigue. It is, plainly and wonderfully, a great piece of conversational cinema. Not all of it makes perfect sense, but when do conversations and interactions ever move according to expectation? It’s a smart and notable achievement for Buscemi. He managed to keep a strange interview engaging he inspired Miller to give one of her best performances and he did this all mostly within one large factory space that never seemed old, cramped, or tired.

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