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`Interview' gets a bit lost in its U.S. translation

Premise of the Dutch film's remake seems less believable here, but the acting is compelling and believable.

July 13, 2007|Carina Chocano | Times Staff Writer

The late Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (great-grandson of Vincent's brother Theo), was murdered by Islamic extremists in 2004 before he could realize his idea of remaking three of his films in a New York setting with American actors. A trio of American actor-directors teamed up with producers Gijs van de Westelaken and Bruce Weiss to realize the triptych of remakes now called "Triple Theo."

"Interview," directed by Steve Buscemi and starring Buscemi and Sienna Miller, is the first of the three to be completed. Like "Blind Date," which is slated to be directed by Stanley Tucci and "O6," a phone sex comedy to be remade by John Turturro, "Interview" centers on an intense, one-on-one conversation between a man and a woman. In this case, it's a veteran war and political correspondent and a young television and B-movie star named Katya (Miller).

Pierre Peders (Buscemi) is seething about the assignment, which he considers beneath his dignity and which he's gotten for reasons that remain unclear until near the end of the film. The interview gets off to a bad start when Katya shows up at the restaurant an hour late and then asks that a couple be unseated so that she may have her regular table. It gets worse when Pierre reveals that he's done no preparation for the interview at all.

Here the story might logically draw to a swift and unequivocal end, but the unlikely tete-a-tete suddenly resumes full force in Katya's luxurious loft after the cabdriver who is ferrying Pierre to the airport bashes into the car in front of him while gawking at her. Feeling responsible for the fact that her killer smile nearly killed someone, Katya invites Pierre upstairs, and the fact that Miller and Buscemi convince us of her good intentions and his disinterested candor, while the dynamic remains skeevy and charged, attests to the movie's strengths.

For a film that unfolds mostly in a single location, "Interview" manages not to feel like a stage piece. But the premise, which may have worked in Holland, gets a little lost in the American translation. It's not that you absolutely can't see these two engaging in a high-stakes, cat-and-mouse I'll-tell-you-my-biggest-secret-if-you tell-me-yours showdown (though it's very hard) -- it's just that you really can't imagine her publicist allowing it.

Still, if you can get past the total absence of handlers from the big star's life, there's enough peril and potential for betrayal involved in the situation to keep you interested. And Miller is quite good at playing the actress people underestimate at their own peril. Wonder why?

carina.chocano@latimes.com

"Interview" MPAA Rating: Rated R for language including sexual references and some drug use. Running time: 86 min.

Theaters: Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Ave., Pasadena, (626) 844-6500; The Landmark, 10850 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 470-0492; Laemmle's Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 981-9811; Edwards University Town Center 6, 4245 Campus Drive, Irvine, (949) 854-8818.

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