Bruni-Tedeschi in episode 11
Doutey in episode 10
Hotel Beau Sejour
van Royen in episode 2
van Royen in episode 1
This film produced not one, but two possible late
entries for the nude scene of the year
The following is not "breaking news," but presented by
The date normally goes here. It is 2000, or
perhaps 2002, depending on whose authority you accept.
It was finished in 1999 and originally slated for
release in 2000, so some movie sites list that date.
Others list the date as 2002, since that is when the
film finally received an unenthusiastic two screen
trial. It's a long story, cover below (well, at least
the director's version of it).
Victoria Silvstedt did quite a bit of nudity in the
And a little bit in the film itself
See more from this film in the back issue for March 6,
Super-agent Jay Moloney was a Hollywood legend
who became a Hollywood mystery. Starting as a student
intern and mail room clerk, he gradually rose at CAA
until he represented the biggest of the big, and moved
in the fastest lane Hollywood had to offer. At various
times, his client list included Steven Spielberg, Sean
Connery, Martin Scorsese, and Dustin Hoffman. His
girlfriends included Sherilyn Fenn, Gina Gershon, and
Jennifer Grey. His "conversions" (people he convinced to
switch from other agencies to CAA) included Mike Nichols
and Tim Burton. He was so powerful that in the Spring of
1995 he announced to a table full of celebrities that
Mike Ovitz was about to leave CAA to take the presidency
of Universal Studios, leaving Moloney to run CAA. Such
was his reputation that nobody at the table doubted him
for a moment.
One of the people at that table was the
British director Bernard Rose, himself a Moloney client
at one time, and the classic Hollywood outsider who
always felt himself to be watching the proceedings with
a slack jaw. Rose gave the matter no additional thought
at the time, busied himself with a project in the next
year and a half, and lost track of Moloney until
December of 1996, when CAA suddenly announced that
Moloney had been fired.
What the ...?
Somehow, Moloney fell from the role of heir apparent to
complete unemployment in less than two years. That's
tragic hero country, right there. Rose started to think
that Moloney's story might have great promise for a
Another two years passed, and Rose started to wonder
what had happened to Moloney since his fall from grace,
so he called his own agent at CAA and asked the question
directly. Nobody knew. Moloney had fallen completely off
the earth, eventually resurfacing as a janitor at a
Caribbean resort. If you or I had been making a million
dollars per year while still in our late 20s, we could
easily have survived being fired, and probably could
have lived comfortably for the rest of our lives without
ever working. Moloney was not you or I. He spent money
as fast as he made it, perhaps faster, confident that
the money would keep rolling in indefinitely. He was in
his twenties, and he intended to start saving at some
time in the future. That future never arrived. He had a
massive cocaine habit, and his possessions were
mortgaged. When he was fired, he could not make the
payments on anything, and lost it all.
When Rose heard of Moloney's complete disappearance from
the industry, and even from basic respectability, he was
completely convinced that the agent's fall would make a
great story, and he resolved to write and direct it
himself. He needed a basic structure for the film, and
he felt he had already found the right one. In the
interim between the Spring of 1995 and the period in
1998 when he started to construct his fictional version
of Moloney's story, Bernard Rose had directed a film
inspired by one Tolstoy story, Anna Karenina, and had
become interested in another, The Death of Ivan Ilyich.
Rose saw a strong connection between Tolstoy's Ilyich
story and Jay Moloney's life. The fictional Ivan Ilyich
was an unrepentant social climber in the complex Russian
civil service system, and he had cast aside any concepts
of warmth, loyalty, and love in order to advance his
career at all costs. When he found out he was dying, he
realized that he had nothing to show for his life, no
spiritual roots, and nothing to comfort him in his
agony. Although he had fancied himself as an important
man, neither the system nor any people would truly miss
him. It was only on his deathbed that he felt "ecstasy"
(xtc. - get it?), as a release from the burden of his
cares and fears.
Updating the story of Ivan Ilyich, using Jay Moloney as
a vehicle, became the focus of Rose's efforts. The two
stories were blended together to form a single fictional
life. Tolstoy's Ivan Ilyich had been an abstemious,
almost anhedonic man, but Jay Moloney had lived a
wastrel's life. In that respect the film drew from
Moloney's life. On the other hand, the film's central
character was not merely fired, but found out that he
was to die, so in that respect, Rose's fictional agent
suffered the fate of Ivan Ilyich, not the fate of Jay
The film's Ivan, called Ivan Beckman, came to grips with
death by dealing with it all alone. He could never bring
himself to share his story with his artistic father and
sister, who disapproved of his soul-destroying
lifestyle. His relationship with his regular girlfriend
was not a spiritual connection, so he chose to exclude
her from his agonizing fate as well. This left his life
so empty that when he was asked to bring a friend to a
doctor's appointment, he realized that he had nobody he
wanted to bring. Even his admiring secretary was too
busy. So he struggled for ways to cope on his own. He
read a bunch of humbug books about homeopathic medicine.
He buried himself in a cloud of drugs. He told nobody he
was dying, except a couple of anonymous coke whores.
When his death was announced at a staff meeting, nobody
really believed it. When they were told he died of
cancer, they assumed it was a "cover story." When his
cynical fellow agents finally became convinced of the
harsh reality, they declared a few seconds of silence,
then quickly started to scramble for Ivan's clients.
Reflection, after all, generates no profit and therefore
has no place at a staff meeting.
The story of how this script was created has one last
chapter. On the very morning in 1999 when Bernard Rose
prepared to screen a first cut of ivans xtc., he
received a startling message from his agent: "Jay
Moloney hanged himself today."
Rose later contended that the death of Moloney
killed his film, because it caused the people at CAA to
close ranks. The director alleges that while CAA had
previously helped with the movie, even allowing him to
film its weekly staff meeting, things seemed to change
after Moloney's death. He says the agency began a
campaign against the film that prevented it from
securing a distributor for a few years. In the
aftermath, he says, he suffered a fate similar to
Moloney's own. He lost his house, his car and assorted
possessions. "We don't even have a couch," he adds,
gesturing around a living room that is bare save for
some old furniture and posters of Rose's films. A CAA
spokesman denied Rose's allegations.
I liked ivans xtc, and was fascinated by it in many
ways. Yet, despite a great lead performance, the film is
not entirely successful.
* The music is very heavy-handed. I suppose
Rose felt that the Aristotelian fall of his tragic
hero and the story's provenance from Tolstoy required
him to slather on the somber classical music. Chopin
and Wagner, especially Wagner's Tristan und Isolde,
dominate the score. A certain very wise man once
wrote, "Most of the worst music ever composed was
written in the 1970s. It was the worst single period
in the history of music, with the possible exception
of Wagner's lifetime." Given a contemporary Hollywood
setting, and no horned helmets, even a little bit of
Wagner is probably too much to avoid pretentiousness.
* The cinematography is inconsistent. The movie was
shot entirely in digital video. I have seen other
digital video movies from the same era that look every
bit as good as film, or better. Species III, for
example, is not even a good movie, but the digital
video looks spectacular. On the other hand, but parts
of Ivansxtc look more like a home movie, poorly lit
and even blurry. I can't tell you whether this can be
attributed to a poor DVD transfer or Rose's failure to
master digital video. I'm pretty sure that it must be
the latter because some scenes look quite good, a fact
which tends to exonerate the guys who mastered the
DVD. To tell you the truth, I think it looks like a
home movie because it pretty much is a home movie.
Rose's live-in love, Lisa Enos, also acted as
producer, star, and co-author. Rose himself played the
Chopin works on the musical score. Many of the
performers (or non-performers, in some cases) came
from the ranks of Rose's circle of friends and
relatives of friends. Even the one truly brilliant
performer in the film, Danny Huston, is Rose's friend,
having met Rose when Danny's wife (Virginia Madsen at
the time) was working on Rose's Candyman.
* The acting is equally inconsistent. Because I expect
professional actors to do their jobs, and they usually
do, I don't comment on the acting unless it is either
very poor or very good. Ivans xtc. has a bit of both.
There are some performers in the film who are
obviously not actors at all, so there is not much
sense in noting who they are, or repeating that they
delivered amateurish performances. They know who they
are, and what they've done, and they will probably
never get a chance to repeat their mistakes.
On the other hand, Danny Huston is absolutely tremendous
in the lead role. What must be understood in order to
play this role is that the film is not a satire of the
film industry; it is the film industry, at least as
Bernard Rose sees it, portrayed without irony. Ivan the
agent, therefore, must be a real person. He cannot seem
to be like Basil Fawlty, the kind of transparently
sycophantic scumbag normally pictured in satirical
films, because he's the biggest agent in the business,
with the biggest clients. Men like Sean Connery and
Steven Spielberg do not get fooled by people like that.
He had to be a man ruthless and connected enough that
the big Hollywood names could look at him and say, "I
have to have this guy working for me." But he also had
to have so many inherently pleasant qualities that he
could convince Hollywood's biggest players, who
represent a wide range of different personality types,
that they enjoy his company. Ivan is utterly charming.
He treats everyone with respect, not just big clients.
He is gentle and considerate with his secretary, with
his dog, and with hookers. He is unfailingly polite to
garage mechanics, waiters, and store clerks.
Ivan's weakness is not that he is a bad person, but that
he is a person untrue to himself. He is always acting
and he knows it. As a result, he has told his inner self
to disappear, and has turned his life over to his work
personality. In essence, Ivan has no opinions nor
personality of his own. He becomes whatever his clients
want and need, whether they are coke-addicted homophobes
or teetotaling orthodox Jews, whether they are insecure
NYU intellectuals or old-time Hollywood party boys. He
admits to his artistic father that he lives a silly,
meaningless life, but it is his life, and he is
committed to it.
And how do you walk away from a million dollars a year?
Danny Huston brought that guy to life. According to
Bernard Rose, Danny is a reluctant actor. I'm not sure
why, but damned if he isn't quite brilliant at it. He is
capable of throwing something totally unique up on the
screen. He has a lightweight charm which seems to
conceal a gravitas which, if unleashed, might equal that
of his famous father, the legendary John Huston. It's a
shame that Danny waited until he was 40 before deciding
he was really meant to be an actor.
Made for a paltry $500,000, this film has a lot of rough
edges, and yet it has a very substantial elemental power
which springs from its irony-free vision of modern
Hollywood, and the complexity of the Ivan character, as
acted by Danny Huston, and as written by Bernard Rose
(and, I suppose, Leo Tolstoy).
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