Some stories are more important than others

Neil Burger, writer and director of this film, was at the Denver International Film Festival to introduce and answer questions about Interview with the Assassin. Having a background in news, he says he wanted to create a "fake documentary" that actually looked real, rather than the mostly spoof-like mockumentaries that have been so common in recent years.

What better subject for his first feature but interviewing the man who shot Kennedy? There are so many theories of that November 1963 assassination, and it's quite plausible that a second shooter would still be alive. With a proven track record for movies on that subject, it's almost a no-brainer.

Raymond J. Barry plays Walter Ohlinger, our self-avowed assassin, who is battling a fatal cancer and has decided it's time to reveal his deed. He enlists to record his confession his neighbor across the street, Ron Kobeleski (Dylan Haggerty), a recently laid-off cameraman for a local news station. Walter is specific about his request - Ron cannot reveal the subject of their interview until he says so.

The premise of the movie is only the backdrop for the interaction between these two men. Walter, a former military sniper, is cantankerous and self-assured, gets things his way, and always seems to be leaving out some piece of information. Ron, on the other hand, desperate for the story to spark his career, gets in over his head, and his uncertainty tends to get the better of him.

Walter gives Ron a shell from the bullet he shot - when tested, it's consistent with a 1963 firing. The two travel to Dallas to tour the scene of the crime. They look up an old member of Walter's unit and practice shooting with guns Ron buys. They learn Walter's commanding officer, contrary to what he thought, is still alive. This is the man who made all the arrangements, and would know who really ordered the his, so they work to track him down.

Things grow progressively stranger and unstable from there, and the relationship between the two men becomes more unsteady. With each scene, new bits of information and texture come out, unraveling and complicating the mystery at the same time. The ending is a bit abrupt, not so much from when it happens, but from how little effort is spent in wrapping things up. I feel the intention is to leave things ambiguously, but that could still have been done with some more exploration of the material at that point.

Ron's camera is a Sony PD-150 and the majority of the action is taped with it - Burger says this was the camera they felt Ron would most likely have on hand. The quality of the camera isn't that much different than the Canon XL1S which was used in Full Frontal, but Interview looks so much better. The difference is that Soderbergh went with natural lighting and Burger went out out of his way to light his scenes properly.

Altogether, this Interview with the Assassin is a refreshing piece of character analysis with just enough action in it to have a broad appeal. I'm hoping it does well when it comes out in November.

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