They both resent the fact that they have to spend any time with the other. Katya has been there, done it and got the picture, she can't face another interview and thinks the press are scum. Pierre thinks that the starlet is vacuous and irritating, he turns up for the interview without doing any preparation and unsurprisingly its a disaster. He doesn't know or care about her, she has nothing but contempt for him. Then because of a car accident, she takes him up to her appartment and an evening of talking and drinking begins.
Discussion is a way to communicate between human beings. In this film, discussion is used communicate indeed. But it communicates all sorts of things that normally are viewed as unconstructive. Both characters make clear their contempt for the other. He views her as an idiotic pretty head, she views him as an ugly old man, who looks like her father. Both of them though want to control the situation, both of them see social interaction as a competition, an occasion to anialate the other person. What that produces of course for both of them is an agreeable frisson. The old reporter gets to kiss the young starlet, she gets to know that her sexuality charms and delights him.
There is more to it than that though, they genuinely do manage to charm each other because their impressions are actually wrong. Miller is not a braindead fool, but is impressively cunning and witty. Buscemi, she discovers is a guy she can feel attracted to. Their flirting works ultimately because they are in some sense both attracted to each other. When Buscemi says to her that he feels like a father to her, its true. When Miller responds affectionately to him, it has a certain truth to it too.
But neither can retain that for long. Every comment comes with a barb. Every overture or opening is seen as a vulnerability and neither of them actually care about how or whether they lose. The night is rounded off with Buscemi leaving Miller's apartment and a twist in a tale- which you'll have to see the movie to find out. But the essential truth is that this film is a contest where there needed not be a contest, an exchange of fire where there needed not be such an exchange. Whether they sleep together or not comes second to the fact that for a moment they both taste the flavour of intimacy, but both draw back before they can sip.
That drawing back is at times a conscious lie. By telling an untruth, even in a moment of intimacy, the two characters end up betraying that intimacy. By telling an untruth, they reserve the right to opt out of intimacy. Both Buscemi and Miller are lying throughout their conversation- she provocatively kisses him and invents scenarios which aren't true, he tells her stories which are blatantly false. Both are in the utmost degree whores- she is constantly referred to by both of them as a whore, a crack whore, a whore, and he also is a whore, selling his stories to the best bidder. Both of them are for sale- and yet neither of them really have anything they want to buy. Miller's character seems to have no joy in life, no empathy with Buscemi's character. He seems to cynical to find any friendship or emotion which pleases him.
This film is a tragedy for both characters. Part of the reason it is a tragedy is that neither of them could diagnose their own condition. Miller doesn't at the end believe that she has lost anything- she is still the sexy young woman about town. Buscemi may believe he has lost, he might not have got the sexual fulfillment he might have wanted. The real loss though is the opportunity to meet another person's subjectivity and try and understand, neither character can break through the walls to do that, they both have to lie to maintain the illusion that they exist invulnerable within a world they presume cheats them at every stage. Both of them hate humanity and hate themselves. That is the tragedy.
Right at the beggining of the film, Buscemi's character talks to his mute brother. He shows real concern but the brother isn't a human being, it's not fair because the brother can't respond and its not fair because Buscemi can't really engage. Miller acts the same words, for her too its not fair because though everyone loves her, she can't love. This film includes amusing, sexy dialogue, and communication. But despite words upon words upon words, neither of the characters are ready to converse.
Every piece of communication in this film is subject to doubt, every time someone says something you can rely on the fact that they are lying, that their words don't mean what they mean. Every exchange is a feint, a tactic, unreal because of that. You can only really relate to the injured or the mute. These two people present for all their undoubted wit and sexiness, a dystopian nightmare for the human soul, where all conversation is like wrestling.
This film, like Closer before it, is an examination of the worst in human nature, its worth seeing and its worth avoiding the fate of its characters.
Crossposted from Bits of News