Blu-ray Review: Ivansxtc

STUDIO: Arrow/MVD | DIRECTOR: Bernard Rose | CAST: Danny Huston, Peter Weller, Lisa Enos, James Merendino
RELEASE DATE: Sept. 29, 2020 | PRICE: Blu-ray $27.99
BONUSES: commentary, extended version, featurettes, more
SPECS: NR | 92 min. | Drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Stereo DTS-HD Master Audio

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  1/2 | Audio  1/2 | Video  1/2 | Overall  1/2

Unseen for the most part since it was completed in 2000, Ivansxtc finally becomes accessible to curious audiences.

An experimental film in many ways, the movie was shot guerilla style on video In this release, it’s offered in different versions with varying frames-per-second speeds. The now-primitive look of the movie adds to its immediacy. A very meta, emotionally-packed, mostly improvisational survey of the innerworkings of Hollywood at the turn of the century, Ivansxtc may best be described as The Player meets Leaving Las Vegas as directed by John Cassavetes.

Actually, the director, cinematographer and co-writer here is Bernard Rose, the British filmmaker behind Paperhouse, Candyman and the Beethoven biography Immortal Beloved. After seeing his 1998 version of Anna Karenina flop at the box-office after the production company (headed by Mel Gibson) took it out of his hands and recut it, Rose made an abrupt turn into low-budget indie filmmaking and has remained in that world with a series of edgy projects ever since.

Danny Huston, the film’s lead who would later star in a few similarly edgy collaborations with Rose, turns in a tour de force performance as Ivan Beckman, a go-go Hollywood agent who is better at schmoozing with mostly sleazy industry types then then taking control of his booze-and-drug-addled life. We follow him from his demise, from his funeral after his untimely demise from cancer, and then move backwards, covering his amped-up, cocaine-fueled wheeling dealing with actors, producers and studio heads.

Inspired by the Tolstoy novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich, the film’s fast-paced dialogue and cynicism is laid on thick by Rose, but it never feels false. As the debauched Ivan deals with his angry girlfriend (Lisa Enos, director Rose’s real-life wife and the film’s co-producer and co-writer), a popular actor (Peter Weller, Naked Lunch) Ivan has persuaded to sign with him and a frantic writer/director  (James Merendino, Amerikana) hoping to get his script greenlighted by a big studio, we recognize the caricatures and the reality at the same time.

Huston is magnificent in the lead, offering a bold and surprising take on the manipulative Hollywood louse type. The rest of the cast seems to be into the ultra- realistic “Crucify Hollywood” session, as well. One assumes that part of the film’s shaky distribution history is owed in part to its take-no-prisoners approach to the milieu and that some of Ivan’s downward trajectory bears a strong resemblance to that of powerful CAA agent Jay Moloney, who died in 1999 at the age of 35.

Arrow has put together an impressive package for the film. There are two versions of the movie presented in different frames-per-second editions, along with a separate producer’s cut of the movie; a featurette on co-producer-actress Enos; trailers; and a terrific Q&A session from a 2018 Egyptian Theater screening with many  of the film’s principals, moderated by screenwriter Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood).

Buy or Rent Ivansxtc

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.