|The Creative XTC of Bernard Rose
|by Thom Fowler
Bernard Rose came out of the world of 80ís British post punk. Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren, Derek Jarman and Trevor Horn make up the cauldron where Rose stewed, eventually directing videos for breakout bands like Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Bronski Beat in the very early 80ís. And now heís in theatres with his second Tolstoy adaptation. Ivans xtc. retells The Life and Death of Ivan Illych, transforming Ivan from a staid beurocrat into a high powered Hollywood agent. Ivan is based on Roseís real life agent Jay Maloney who was at one time a very important agent and almost instantaneously, he dropped off the radar and it was as if he never existed.
The entertainment community has had a mixed reaction to the film. On the one hand, some think it is trying to take the piss out of those people in the industry who live reckless, extravagant, arrogant lives but those who have seen it have responded positively. ďThe ones that donít like itĒ, Rose tells me, ďare those that havenít seen the movie.Ē
People in America and especially Hollywood think they are invulnerable and immortal whereas most people in other cultures live with their mortality and make friends with the shadow that follows us all. Rose brings mortality to the forefront to show you that everyone dies and how you live matters. The story of Ivan Illych is a humanizing tale for people that, while chasing their desires, have become dehumanized and seduced by a faerie idea of power Ė a chimera.
I hear people talk about money constantly in Los Angeles and their whole being is focused on acquiring it rather then making a life worth living. There is nothing wrong with wanting to make as much money as you can, but as soon as that becomes the point youíve lost yourself.
Imagine throwing slop to hungry pigs and thatís just about the attitude of people here in The Basin towards making money. It blinds them to anything else, if they donít see a dollar, they donít see anything. When Ivan is suddenly faced with an immanent and unexpected death, he tries to look at what his life means to him through the fog of his illness, drugs, alchohol and the denial that, even as heís coughing up blood, that anything could be wrong. After all, heís Ivan Beckman and he just made the deal of a lifetime. He canít die.
ďI don't think the people in the movie business are somehow intrinsically bad. It is a symptom of American culture in general, people have a strong denial of their own mortality. There is momento mori of one kind or another in all European architecture, graveyards were central, included somehow in the community.Ē, says Rose.
Rose carefully avoids sugar coated moralizing by not painting a black and white picture. ďI don't like the idea of putting white hats and black hats on people. Itís hard not to do that because the audience identifies with the lead character.Ē The traditional action formula is to make the hero the guy you sympathize with, whereas in horror, you sympathize with the victim.
Rose has some experience with the Horror genre, having adapted Clive Barker's Candyman for the screen. He remains good friends with Barker. He also directed the cult classic Army of Darkness. I don't know if that counts as horror though.
Rose blends shades of grey so you see the Ivan as both Hero and Victim, pulling us into a love hate relationship with a man who has just hours to find his soul and depart the world in peace. ďAn action hero is always some kind of fascistic hero, in the Wagnerian mode, that's what they have become. I think the problem is that we think that is okay. You canít say the other people have point of view.Ē In the west, this could be characterized with the phrase, ďGod is the DevilĒ as the ultimate expression of either/or as being two sides of the same coin Ė both.
Rose shot Ivans xtc. In digital video. Looking back, he talks about Derek Jarman who was making those kind of extreme super 8 movies in the late 70ís and 80ís and people were telling him that video was the lesser version of film. Jarman took very crude equipment and did some interesting things with it and now the poor manís film is rapidly turning into a viable, albeit controversial medium. Rose took the utmost advantage of digital, using existing lights and locations Ė saving a chunk of change and showing a good story.
The idea to shoot digital was the idea of Rose's partner and co-star of the film, Lisa Enos. Enos, a documentarian, asked them flat out one day if they wanted to make a movie, why don't they?
Rose has embraced the new media landscape and has done what he can to continue to produce the kinds of films that interests him.
The following excerpt was first published on Yahoo life by Andrea Basora and Bilge Ebiri and reprinted on the ivans xtc. website www.ivansxtc.com.
"The Web tends to reflect people's actual interests as opposed to their manufactured interests," he says. "It's a way of reaching an audience without having to pass through someone else's net. That's a very big change in all media."
"I hope the studios don't learn anything from the Web," Rose says. "I hope they ignore the message, do the noble thing, and go to their graveyards and die. They have been an increasingly negative influence on filmmaking in the past 20 years."
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originally posted: 06/12/02 18:17:23
last updated: 06/12/02 18:20:40