DAILY | Venice 2012 | Bernard Rose’s BOXING DAY

“Fans of the 1992 cult horror hit Candyman probably never guessed at the time that Brit writer-director Bernard Rose would go on to become filmdom’s most dedicated Tolstoy obsessive,” begins David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. “After being bitten by the bug with a traditional telling of Anna Karenina in 1997, the cast of which featured Danny Huston, he has since reteamed with the actor on a trilogy of no-budget modern updates of the 19th century Russian writer’s work. Following Ivans XTC [based on The Death of Ivan Ilych] and The Kreutzer Sonata comes Boxing Day, but this textureless adaptation of Master and Man suggests the well has run dry.”

The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw disagrees: “The tale has been turned by Rose into a shrewd and cerebral picture, an intimate slow-burner which does not render up its meaning easily, unfolding in what is almost real time. But it is a cleverly judged and very satisfying piece of work, about two deeply unsympathetic and questionable characters. The landowner has now become Basil, played by Danny Huston, a rascally property speculator with a lordly and supercilious manner…. [H]e has had word of a string of ‘foreclosures’ in Colorado… Unwilling to go through the wearisome auction, the bank will apparently unload them at a bargain price and Basil figures he can then sell them at a mouthwatering profit. He borrows the money by tricking an elderly lady into letting him use a church foundation fund as a loan guarantee and then gets a local taxi driver Nick, played by Matthew Jacobs, to ferry him around inspecting the properties themselves…. What gives the story its bite is that Nick is quite as unsympathetic, in his way, as Basil.”

“As well as writing and helming, Rose also shoots and edits the pic,” notes Leslie Felperin in Variety, “and contributes as both a composer (with Nigel Holland) and a performer for its mournful score of piano pieces played in a minor key, including a Schubert sonata. Unfortunately, he does an undistinguished job in every department.”

But for Screen‘s Mark Adams, Boxing Day is a “nicely nuanced and intriguingly watchable film that is modest in structure but substantial in subtext.”

“There’s also a fourth Tolstoy film in the can,” noted Anne Thompson a couple of weeks ago: “Two Jacks (Two Hussars), which will eventually turn up on the festival circuit (trailer below). ‘It’s very different, light-hearted and nostalgic and sweet,’ says Rose, who toys with the Huston legend in this one, casting Danny as womanizing film director and gambler Jack Hussar, who comes to LA to raise financing for his next film, seduces Diana (Sienna Miller) and plays a high-stakes poker game. Years later, Hussar Jr. (Danny’s nephew Jack, Boardwalk Empire) arrives in Hollywood to make his directorial debut, while the older Diana (Jacqueline Bisset) realizes that her daughter is falling for her former lover’s son. Rose, who scores his films with his own classical piano interpretations, also has a penchant for music movies, from biopic Immortal Beloved, starring Gary Oldman as Ludwig van Beethoven, to the upcoming Paganini: The Devil’s Violinist, which stars violinist David Garrett and begins filming this month in Germany and Austria.”

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