Lisa Enos

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Boxing Day Review


With their third present-day Tolstoy adaptation, filmmaker Rose and actor Huston continue to skilfully explore timeless issues with an urgent, modern style of storytelling that feels almost documentary. Based Master and Man, this film shifts a bit jarringly from a social comedy into a dark thriller. And its themes are less personally resonant than either Ivansxtc or The Kreutzer Sonata.

This time Huston plays Basil, a Los Angeles businessman struggling with very bad debts. To make some quick cash, he abandons his family on the day after Christmas, flying to Denver to buy up some foreclosed houses and make a quick profit. Once there he teams up with chauffeur Nick (Jacobs), who drives him from house to house, eventually heading up into secluded bedroom communities in the Rockies. But after hanging out in a bar for the afternoon, they get lost on an isolated road as darkness falls. And when they get stuck in the snow, their thoughts turn to survival.

With two characters on distinct sides of the 1/99 percent divide, the film is strikingly relevant today. Especially since both men are in such precarious positions and yet still have such disdain for each other. Boris continually mocks Nick for being unfamiliar with his own new car, while Nick never even tries to conceal his contempt for Basil's callous privilege. Both Huston and Jacobs make the most of this, throwing barbed wit into their ongoing conversation while also clearly trying to find some common ground. So the moments of genuine friendship are surprisingly warm.

Continue reading: Boxing Day Review

The Kreutzer Sonata Review

The second in Rose's planned trilogy of films based on Tolstoy novels (after Ivansxtc), this is a gripping, Hitchcockian marital thriller with the added value of a score by Ludvig van Beethoven himself.

Edgar (Huston) has planned a benefit dinner in his home in aid of African war victims. The centrepiece of the evening will be a performance of Beethoven's Sonata No 9, performed by professional violinist Aidan (King) and Edgar's wife Abby (Röhm), who gave up her career as a concert pianist to raise his children.

But this sonata has a lusty history, and Edgar finds it impossible to believe that Aidan and Abby aren't having an affair. Consumed with jealousy, he considers taking the ultimate action against them.

Continue reading: The Kreutzer Sonata Review

Ivans Xtc. Review


Writer-director Bernard Rose's tense and pensive, Tolstoy-inspired, digital-noir dark showbiz farce "ivans xtc." is a potent, surprising piece of seat-of-the-pants cinema -- and not just because it actually makes you feel sympathy for a slimy Hollywood agent.

Set in the most furtive, cutthroat corners of the film industry, the movie opens by creating an atmosphere of contagious kinetic, vitalizing anxiety with a nerve-pinching score and metaphorical, dream-like images of a smoggy, hazy Los Angeles sunrise that has an ironic, asphyxiating urban beauty. The odd serenity of these sights is further offset by muffled sounds of hard breathing and the distant voices of emergency room doctors.

After this title sequence establishes the film's disquieting mood, the story begins with a bombshell that leaves its industry-archetype characters stunned -- but not so stunned that they won't immediately begin jockeying to take advantage. Powerful young talent agent Ivan Beckman (Danny Huston) died last night, quite suddenly of cancer -- or so the story goes. Within 60 seconds of getting the news, the other talent wranglers in his firm are gossiping about drugs. "What did he do," ask one rival who is repressing a savage, smug smile. "Freebase his face off?"

Continue reading: Ivans Xtc. Review

Lisa Enos

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