DVD Review: The Interview

interview-coverCreative works have shaken up societies, destabilized governments and initiated great violence for centuries. You can start with the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo and work your way back to Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses,” Nikos Kazantzakis’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” (movie version) and Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer.”

Did Harriet Beecher Stowe initiate the Civil War with “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”? No, but that didn’t keep Lincoln from joshing, when he met her in 1862, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”

You don’t mind going to war for Picasso or cutting off diplomatic ties on behalf of Nijinsky’s 1913 choreography for “The Rite of Spring.”

But for Seth Rogen’s potty humor?

Rogen and James Franco are most of the creative talent behind “The Interview,” the movie that moved North Korea to hack Sony to bits. In the wake of said hack and veiled threats of theater bombings, Sony withdrew the film and received a national scolding from President Obama. Major issues, to be sure: freedom of expression, artistic license, bully threats.

But heroic stances taken in the interests of raunch, poop jokes and record-setting usage of the F-word are not as satisfying as those taken in the name of Cubism or Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl.”

“The Interview,” the current poster child of the First Amendment, is the adventures of Dave Skylark (Franco) and his producer, Aaron Rapoport (Rogen). Their celebrity tabloid TV show, “Skylark Tonight,” specializes in cultural outrage, gross-outs and pop audacity. Turns out, one of the show’s fans is Kim Jong-un, he of the bad haircut, hereditary dictator of North Korea. Dave and Aaron press their luck and beg an interview with the prince of Pyongyang. Request granted! It’s quite a coup for the boys and in the midst of their high-fiving along come a pair of CIA agents who recruit Skylark and Rapoport to assassinate Kim. And off they go.

Franco and Rogen are really good with their lines and some of those lines are, we blush to admit, really funny. Not so funny in North Korea, but the joke really is on them: a piece of juvenile trash has become a household word thanks to that country’s tantrum.

In 1934, upon the U.S. release of “Tropic of Cancer,” Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Musmanno wrote that Henry Miller’s book was “not a book. It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity.” Much the same can be said of “The Interview.”

George Orwell helped deliver “Tropic of Cancer” from eternal damnation by saying it was one of the most important books of the 1930s. It is extremely unlikely that anyone will ever have that sort of praise for “The Interview.”

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]

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