The bad and the beautiful
British filmmaker BERNARD ROSE was burned by Hollywood. Now he’s made a film about the place.
Words: Tom Dawson
ritish director Bernard Rose knovvs hovv it
feels to see a cherished film butchered by a
llollyvvood studio. lie was barred from the editing room of Anna Karenina. as a series of cuts overseen by executive producer .\lel (iibson reduced the film from three hours to barer 100 minutes. Determined to direct another Tolstoy adaptation. Rose and his producer and co-vvriter and girlfriend Lisa linos decided to bypass the majors. and instead make a lovv-budget. digital video version of The Death of [Will l/vr'r'lr. transposing the setting from (‘xarist Russia to present—day 'l‘inseltovvn and renaming it ll'(lll.\'.\'l('.
'The original novella. which I first read before I made zlnna lv'arani'na. struck me because of' its structure] explains the 42-year—old Rose. ‘lt's one of the most perfect narrative tricks I‘ve ever seen. This guy is dead and nobody cares too much. and yoti don't care too much. and then they bury him. and his servant goes off. to play cards. and then you start to find out about this man’s life. liverything seems to be going vvell in his life. and then he realises his ambitions aren‘t fulfilled and it's not hovv he really wanted it to be. and it’s dovvnhill all the vvay. You follow that dreadful journey with him. yet somehovv the ending is uplifting. The book is a universal critique of human society and the lolly of leading one‘s life vvithout
looking forvvard to some acknovvledgement of' our
own demise.’ Quoting the late Derek .larman’s maxim that 'the
‘We’ve had to battle with people who’ve tried repeatedly to stop the film mm from being released internationally’
35mm camera is chained by money to institutions. but the super 8mm camera is free. Rose passionately expounds on the advantages of shooting li'ansiri' on high delinition \‘ideo. "I‘his technology is so much easier to rise. You can see what you get at the time. and you don't need to light scenes in the way you‘d need to light a film. l'ilni only used to be open to a privileged few. and even those l‘evv would be denied the opportunity to make the films they wanted to. with the people they wanted to.‘
Danny lltiston plays the lead role in li'arrs.\'n' as the talent agent suddenly forced to confront his ovvn
mortality. like a personal dance betvyeen director and actor. with each adjusting and helping the other
out.‘ is hovv he describes acting in front of the digital camera. ‘lnstead of' standing by. rolling the sound. stating it and then starting acting. Bernard vvould just gently press play] Huston says. ';\s an actor you don't feel you have to perform at a given moment. otliervvise you're vvasting film. There isn‘t that pressure. so you're not scared of making mistakes.~
Yet having completed shooting lr'ans'rn' some three years ago. a real-life tragedy nearly prevented the film from being distributed. ()n the day of a screening for key buyers. the nevvs broke that the ex- (‘:\:\ talent agent .lay Moloney. upon whom Danny Huston‘s character vvas loosely based. had committed suicide. ‘('.'\.'\ vvere going to sell the film and vve’d made it vvith their co— operation. yet they decided that it was portraying them in a light they didn‘t \vant.’ says Rose. '\\'e‘\'e really had to battle with people vvho‘ve tried repeatedly to stop the film from being released internationally. But they‘ve f‘ailed.‘
‘\\’e've put our ovvn money into ll'llll.\’.\'l('.. adds lltistoit. 'and for us it‘s a miracle. l.isa linos told me and Bernard to stop complaining about our pictures not being greenlit and just to go out and shoot our ovvn. That‘s what we did. and we shovved that it is possible to make a film this vvay.’
And no more having their films butchered by llolly\\'ood. then. eh'.’
Selected release from Fri 9 Aug. See review right
DRAMA IVANSXTC (18) 92min oooo
l-lighflyingj lvan Beckman iDanny Huston) is dead. l-lis colleagues at the Media latent Agency in t-lollvwood assume that it was a drugs overdose. and rush to reassure super star client. movre actor Don West (Peter Weller). We then flashback to the last few WUOKE; of lvan's life. ‘.'.’ll()l'(} he engineers the deal to sign West up to MTA. A routine medical test. however. indicates lung; cancer. Unable even to tell his screenwriter girlfriend iLisa Enosr the tragic news. lvan continues to immerse himself in a whirl of hedonism . . . Inspired by the real-life suicide of former (3AA wunderkind Jay Moloney. and by the Tolstoy novella The Death of Ivan //v/c/i. Iva/isxfc is a triumphant comeback for British director Bernard Rose after the disai)pointments he endured wrth Anna Karenina.
The extended opening; credits sequence oi shots of LA at dawn. accompanied by Wagner's ‘l'ristan and lsolde'. establish a grandiose. operatic tone. In the tradition of films like fire ’xaver. this is partly a venomous satire on l lollvv'.«'oo<l's spiritual bankruptcy, here personified by \vVeller's monstrous. sexually rapacious West. But superva shot on digital video, liq'rnsxtc is also an affecting; study of an individual forced to confront his own mortality and the nreariiirgjlessness of his exrstence. the physically ti()liilll£lli(llllt] Huston is superb in the central role. conveying; both his characters surface charm and l)tlltl(?()llllltj despair. ilom l)£t‘.‘."t;()iil
fie/ecieti' release fith / n 5?
Alli}. .Jee ,'i/ei.ieit'. left.
it. :. .’ THE LIST 11