A movie for every day of the year – a good one
Leo Tolstoy born, 1828
On this day in 1828, Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born. A gambler, womaniser, brawler and university dropout in his youth, he took a turn to the spiritual as he got older, sometime after having already written War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). Indeed, he became something of an ascetic anarchist, choosing to live a life of simplicity and pacificism. He was an advocate of non-violence and extremely influential on Mohandas (ie Mahatma) Gandhi, who named his second ashram in South Africa the Tolstoy Colony, and on Martin Luther King Jr. A prodigous essayist in later life, Tolstoy’s output included Why Do Men Intoxicate Themselves?, What Is Religion and Love Each Other. Together with his wife Sophia he had 13 children, one of whom died as recently as 1979.
Ivansxtc (2000, dir: Bernard Rose)
Ivansxtc is the second and probably the best so far of the series of film based on Tolstoy’s works made by the director Bernard Rose. Rose had already tackled Anna Karenina in 1997, and has since made the Tolstoy-related The Kreutzer Sonata (2008), Two Jacks (2012) and Boxing Day (2012). Which might surprise those who only know him for directing Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax music video and the infamous horror film Candyman (dare you say his name five times?). Ivansxtc is based on Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Illyich – though it’s often claimed it’s actually more based on the charmed life and suicide of Hollywood superagent Jay Moloney. It stars Danny Huston as a recently deceased agent whose life of cocaine and hookers is replayed for our delight and edification. Huston had also been in Anna Karenina and has appeared in all of Rose’s films based on Tolstoy’s works since, but has never beaten this portrayal of the Hollywood king (he’s a dynastic Hollywood son, after all) who believes the rules don’t apply to him. This dizzy collation of egotastic fun and payback was shot for nothing on digital because no one would back it, and the locations it uses are the houses of all concerned. Its producer, Lisa Enos, is also one of its stars. That doesn’t happen often. But the digital decision does give the film a documentary veracity which only adds to the brilliantly brittle portrait of dark, doomed opulence it portrays. Hollywood has rarely looked so horrible.
- The role Huston was born to play
- Bernard Rose pissed off a lot of people with this insider portrait
- This is guerrilla film-making made without any finance at all
- Peter “Robocop” Weller is excellently repellent as a Jack Nicholson-esque party animal
© Steve Morrissey 2013