ivans xtc. ★★★★½

Bernard Rose is an interesting filmmaker, with a strange obsession for adapting Leo Tolstoy. ivans xtc. is his version of the Tolstoy novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

Rose has directed another four Tolstoy adaptations, as far as I can see (pretty sure Leo didn't have a short story about Candyman...), he has also made Anna Karenina (1997), The Kreutzer Sonata, Two Jacks and Boxing Day.

Rose takes the Tolstoy stories and updates them to the modern day, often setting them in sleazy Hollywood. He casts Danny Huston and lets rip.

ivans xtc. is a really full throttle Hollywood satire. It is a sleazy, sordid 90 minutes. The kind of film where Peter Weller snorts cocaine off Danny Huston's wife, "2 milimetres from her pussy" as the film would have it. Rose pulls no punches with Hollywood, while keeping his literary precision.

He scores the film with a cold, classical soundscape; while swerving into the satire by casting Tiffani Thiessen and Victoria Silvstedt, as strange versions of their own public personas.

The film is probably most notable for its incredibly low-grade digital photography, that adds to its grimey appearance. It deliberately looks terrible, which just adds to the film.

However, in the end, this film belongs to Danny Huston. Huston manically stumbles around the film, delivering a masterclass in charisma. Huston plays a Hollywood agent, with snake-oil charm, a huge grin and dead eyes and an unending love of consumption. Yet the film works because it opens with his death, the reactions to his death, then spins backwards into his last weekend, of parties, and drugs and sex.

It is like the louche Ikiru.

Yet, despite the level of unlikeable debauchery, Rose and Huston makes the film an emotionally resonant work. Where you feel deeply by the end of the 90 minutes for main character.

ivans xtc. is one of the most neglected great films of the last 15 years. A brutal satire, a great literary adaptation, a stunning performance; a debauched, sexy, drama, that ends up as a really melancholic character study.