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SCREEN SPY: "Interview with the Assassin"

SCREEN SPY: "Interview with the Assassin"

copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier

Neil Burger's first feature is, in simplest terms, another film about the Kennedy assassination; specifically, about a man who claims to be the second gunman. But it's also a film about self-delusion and obsession.

An out-of-work cameraman, Ron Kobeleski, is contacted by Walter Ohlinger, an old man with a story to tell (laconically played by Raymond J. Barry, one of those actors you recognize as much by their voice as by their looks). From the start, he's a bit peremptory, prompting a question that nagged at me all through the film: why does Kobeleski (played by Dylan Haggerty) follow his lead, almost without question, until the end? But part of the answer lies in my own reaction as a viewer. What's on-screen is often so uneventful as to seem almost random, and it's clear early on that both we and the protagonist may be following a deluded old man through an ornate charade. Still, I stayed with the film step by step to the end.


In part because, as portrayed by Barry, the assassin has a lean authority that's hard to question. Plus, shot in video, the film has a rough quality that adds authenticity. When the two visit the famous grassy knoll, it looks so banal that Ohlinger's replay of his actions on the day of the assassination seems that much more believable. The casting is also very effective. When he visits an old Army buddy, ir's hard to imagine the burnt-out, watchful person who greets them is an actor.

It helps too that the very naturalistic writing doesn't call attention to its clever turns - as when Ohlinger tells his fellow vet he's got cancer and the other man shrugs it off with, "There's a lot of that going around." Or when Ohlinger's asking Kobeleski to pay for something gives a sudden, dark glimpse into his past.

Plot? Well, there actually is one, complete with a climax that's been seeded with Chekovian precision. But really this is about a journey, and how one man lures another - and the audience - into making it.

NOTE: The Web page for this movie deserves a review in itself. If you want to write THAT one, visit: