At the Movies

Jeremy Bernstein

On Christmas day at 3.05 p.m. I managed to see The Interview. It was not so easy. It was playing at the Cinema Village, a pocket size three-screen theatre in Greenwich Village which specialises in obscure foreign films and other exotica. When I showed up at 2.30 all performances were sold out except the 1 a.m. but I joined the standby line and just at 3.03 managed to get in and find a seat in the very back of the theatre. There were some TV people outside both when I entered and left. What they expected I have no idea.

Some things surprised me about the film and some didn’t. One of the surprises was what I think people in the business call 'production values'. This film didn't seem to have been done on the cheap (I later learned it cost $44 million). Extras abound and there are some exotic locations (all of them, it turns out, in Canada). I was also surprised by the first few minutes which featured a chorus of cherubic North Korean girls singing the virtues of incinerating the United States. It was the funniest bit in the film.

What didn't surprise me was the vulgarity. No part of the human anatomy or its contents goes undiscussed. Some of it is funny but most not. Hearing the f-word spoken in every third sentence both by the Americans and the Koreans grows rapidly thin. The two lead characters, played by Seth Rogen and James Franco, soon got on my nerves. Kim Jong-Un – a remarkable performance by Randall Park, who drops the f-word with the best – also got on my nerves but because of a sort of marshmallow sentimentality which even involves a dog. By the end of the film ends I was glad he was dispatched with – not because of his cruelty but because he's so annoying.

When Stanley Kubrick made Dr Strangelove there was a scene that he liked but didn't include in the final cut. He had filmed the principals having a food fight in the war room. He thought it was funny but distracted from the intellectual content of the film so he cut it. There is no food fight that the directors of The Interview (Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) can resist. The final scenes have a Kubrickian madness but lack the touch of the master.

I was old enough – barely – to be taken to see Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dicatator when it came out. Chaplin played both a Jewish barber – not further indentified – and Adenoid Hynkel, the dictator of Tomainia. His henchman are called Garbitsch and Herring and there is also Beninzo Napaloni the dictator of Bacteria. The two men have a food fight. There is of course no f-word. Hitler is known to have seen The Great Dictator at least twice. I wonder how often Kim Jong-un will ask to see The Interview. Once was enough for me.


  • 6 January 2015 at 12:52pm
    Allbarone says:
    Roger Lewis dealt with the question of the cake battle in Dr Strangelove by asking 'what intellectual content?' and started a petition to restore the ending that the whole film is building towards (as the stupid yee-ha thing is not). This was when Kubrick was still alive, and Lewis encouraged people to write to him at his address in 'Borehamwood(!)'. The point is, he was a master with an oddly uncertain touch, was Kubrick.

    (And why, while we're at it, would you queue to see a film with Seth Rogen, and then be surprised it's crap? You have to have some sort of filter, or how do you even manage to get from one end of the day to the other?)