Interview, Steve Buscemi's American adaptation of the 2003 Theo van Gogh film of the same name, offers a polished but tamer version of the original, coming at its subject without van Gogh's rough raunchy edges. Yet the performances, especially Sienna Miller's, are an asset to this picture. So is marketability that comes from being in English, which could give the movie the wide audience that van Gogh hoped an American adaptation of the film would get.
Given Miller's star profile right now, the film is likely have an international appeal that will go far beyond the festival circuit on which the Dutch original traveled.
Dedicated to van Gogh, Buscemi's Interview addresses the topical issue of news media harnessed to celebrity gossip that demoralises and debases its own practitioners, but the heat comes from van Gogh's favourite dramatic device, the psycho-sexual gamesmanship between two characters.
Buscemi plays Pierre Peters, a journalist known for his war and political reporting, who is sent slumming by his editor to interview Katya (Sienna Miller), a starlet who's the glam flavour of the month.
He doesn't much about her, and pretends to know even less, and tells her so disdainfully when she arrives after he's kept waiting for more than an hour.
The official interview ends quickly, but Buscemi's cab has a freak accident just as it's driving by the young actress, and the journalist ends up treating his wounds with drink in her posh loft.
Buscemi's performance and his script (co-written with David Schechter) begin with the journalist's humiliation by the interview's trivial subject. Yet when there's a battle to be won over the girl half his age, and a scoop about personal suffering to be purloined from her diary, the predatory reporter's instincts come to life.
It's a bit of a reach to think of of Buscemi as a journalist who has seen (and fucked) everything. Buscemi and Schechter have also toned down the profanity and edgy rawness of the original, which made endless slurs about Katya's body parts - a bid to keep an 'R' rating'
Accordingly, Buscemi's character isn't so much the original's booze-addled sexual aggressor, as he is the slimy, cynical opportunist, poised to ooze into any opening.
The real surprise here is Miller, as a soap bimbo in the Paris/Lindsay/Britney mold who turns out to be far more intelligent and shrewd than her public or her interviewer imagine.
By the time Buscemi leaves her loft, she's wrung information out of him that signs his fate over to her. Miller can be poutish and peevish, as the role requires, but her wit and bawdiness make her a more than equal adversary with Buscemi. With more depth than anyone expected, given the roles that Miller has played so far, this is her breakthrough performance.
Lest the audience forget the ultra-lite entertainment world that Katya inhabits, her cell phone rings constantly to break any continuity. The 'signature' ring is an inane dog's bark - which sidetracks serious treachery by either character, and deflates serious emotion.
Shooting with three cameras, as Van Gogh did (and with the Dutch crew that worked on the original), Buscemi achieves some of the spontaneous 'live' feel that van Gogh could get with long takes.
The lush loft interior where most of the action happens has a candle-lit warmth, befitting the decorated residence of a starlet, but the dramatic chill is always there. The second time around, the Dutch crew led by DP Thomas Kist has refined the look of Interview with better lighting, richer color and a tighter image
The few van Gogh purists out there will find the film soft, but Buscemi will benefit from the fact that more people know van Gogh's name and his tragic murder in 2004 than his actual work. If the audience doesn't give him the benefit of the doubt for trying, Miller in the cast is more than enough bait.
Interview is the first installment of Triple Theo, a project conceived by producers Weiss and van de Westelaken, in which US adaptations of the van Gogh films 06 and Blind Date will follow. Their fate in the marketplace hangs in part on how well Interview performs.
Cinemavault Releasing International
Gijs van de Westelaken
Based on a film by Theo van Gogh
Based on an original screenplay by Theodor Holman