Arrow Video: ivansxtc (2000) - Reviewed

Bernard Rose and Lisa Enos’ ivansxtc, the director/writer-producer’s searing transposition of Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich into a contemporary hedonistic Hollywood setting, remains one of the greatest films of the 2000s no one has ever seen outside of select film screenings or importing shoddy DVD transfers from the UK.  Thanks to the good folks at Arrow Video with generous participation from the filmmakers, audiences in the United States can finally see the film critics raved about but no one could see. 
Starring Danny Huston as Ivan Beckman, a hotshot film agent working in Hollywood, ivansxtc is a painfully tragic tale of one man’s slow journey towards death after a cancer diagnosis and the subsequent substance abuse and sexual addled excesses experienced by Ivan on the way there.  Co-starring Lisa Enos as Ivan’s girlfriend and Peter Weller as a cocaine addicted movie star, the film is told almost entirely in flashback chronicling Ivan’s downward spiral as he comes to grips with his fading mortality in a world where people become commodities in service to the unholy altar of Tinseltown.
Far more savage than Mulholland Drive and more piercing than Maps to the Stars, Candyman director Rose and producer Enos have fashioned a beautiful, haunting film which is equal parts enlightening and draining to watch.  Featuring a gifted and unforgettable performance by Danny Huston as the tormented Ivan, ivansxtc winds up being one of the most indelible takes on Tolstoy as well as a deeply personal project for Enos. 

For years the film was almost completely unavailable in the United States due to comments made by the director concerning the very real death of CAA agent Jay Maloney in an effort to drum up notoriety.  Something of a cursed film with various unexpected problems plaguing the film for almost twenty years, ivansxtc faced an uphill battle from day one. 
Predating the technological innovation employed by Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and Gemini Man, the film was shot at 60i frames per second on a Sony HDW-700A HD video digital camera.  When transferred to 35mm for 24 frames per second theatrical projection, the finished image looked something like a smeary Dogme 95 film with print damage further soiling the film’s brilliant camerawork lensed by Ron Forsthye and Bernard Rose himself. 
Thanks to the generous contribution of Lisa Enos, however, now the film can be seen on the Arrow Video blu-ray disc in both the theatrical 24fps version, the native 60i version and also includes a new extended producer’s cut prepared by Enos at 60i.  The new results marking among the very first Arrow Video releases to include a 60 frames per second version of the film are a revelation, bringing you closer than before into the hemisphere of Ivan’s tortured journey into oblivion.  That no one was able to see the film this way until now is indeed a shame and those who did manage to see the film somehow someway before this new release are in for quite a surprise.

A difficult, somber masterpiece with arguably the darkest look at the Hollywood machine since The Day of the Locust, ivansxtc is a labor of love whose results won’t be to all tastes but for adventurous cinephiles remains one of the greatest films ever made you’ve neither heard of or seen until now.   Hard and heavy, the film is at once a personal emotional expression as well as a new take on Tolstoy you’ve never thought of before.  One of the most important home video releases of 2020 easily!

--Andrew Kotwicki