In a smackdown between Brains and Beauty, who emerges victorious?

Interview, actor Steve Buscemi's cunning remake of a 2003 Dutch film by the late Theo van Gogh, is a bout between a dissipated journalist and the blond flavor of the month.

Manhattan-based Pierre Peders (Buscemi) itches to leave for Washington and report breaking news about a political scandal. But because he's suspected of embroidering his dispatches, Pierre is punished. His assignment: profile TV phenom Katja (Sienna Miller). Contemptuous of his fluffy subject, Pierre doesn't bother to prepare questions.

He is even less prepared to find Katja's pretty vanilla face masks the starlet's Rocky Road determination. She is a professional seducer and won't stop until she succeeds with Pierre. He is a professional ferret who has never met a subject like this.

Is it a surprise that the face-off between Mr. Fact and Ms. Fantasy turns into a psychodrama veering perilously close to blood sport?

Is it a surprise that the subject of so many profiles asks better questions than the interviewer? That the professional questioner is flattered by his subject's curiosity?

Originally intended as an English-language remake of his 2003 Dutch film, Theo van Gogh had cast Buscemi and Miller before he was murdered by an Islamist who had issues with one of his documentaries. Buscemi then assumed the directorial reins.

I enjoyed the film as a performance piece, an eminently watchable contest between two actors at the top of their games. Buscemi is always great, and Miller is proving herself the equal of America's most resourceful character actor. But Interview should be taken as an anatomy of a power struggle and not a documentary about celeb profiles. Most of these mutual back-scratching affairs are conducted under the publicist's watchful eye.

This said, yes, the star often feels like a trapped animal, bored by questions when not feeling violated by them. And yes, the scribe feels at best like a therapist and at worst a tool of the publicity machine.

Is it also true that celeb subjects come onto the scribe? (And vice-versa?) Well, when a certain male actor I was interviewing dropped trou, I dropped notebook and sprinted out the hotel-room door and down the corridor so fast that I could have qualified for the Olympics 400-meter event. Based on the testimonies of many stars, the reverse is true as well.

Interview *** (out of four stars)

Directed by Steve Buscemi, written by Buscemi, Theodor Holman and David Schechter, inspired by the 2003 Theo van Gogh film. With Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller. Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

Running time: 1 hour, 23 mins.

Parent's guide: R (profanity)

Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse and Showcase at the Ritz/NJ


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey
at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com.
Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl/