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LAFF: Bernard Rose and Danny Huston Reunite with 'Boxing Day,' Third in Tolstoy Series (VIDEO)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 12, 2013 at 4:08PM

Transplanted Brit writer-director Bernard Rose and Hollywood scion Danny Huston have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship. Casting Huston in "IVANSXTC," a llittle-seen 2002 success d'estime that in many ways presaged the indie digital age, jumpstarted the would-be director's career as an actor. Huston keeps coming back for more, because with Rose he winds up doing his best acting.
'Boxing Day'
'Boxing Day'

Knowing that no one would back this downbeat uncommercial subject, Rose decided to "go make the film without asking for permission. There was something glorious about it." He shot "IVANSXTC" in 1999 with the original Sony HDcam: he thinks it was the first film shot in an HD format, which was radical at the time. "Now it's become common." Alas, the DVD is only available in the UK.

With "Boxing Day," it was also unlikely that anyone would "want to finance a film about two middle-aged men in a car," says Rose. "It's not going to make a producer salivate." So Rose drove with a crew of six people to Colorado and shot the film. "There's nothing official about any of it," he says. "It's so liberating. I've made bigger movies before and since, but when you are involved in that whole industrial process, there are things you can't do."

"Boxing Day" starts the day after Christmas as Danny Huston's real estate speculator sits on his balcony, watching the sun rise. Soon he has ditched his snug California hearth for a thankless trek into the dark Colorado winter in a Mercedes with a driver ("Paperhouse" writer Matthew Jacobs), who also doesn't have his head screwed on tight; he's turned away when he tries to visit his ex-wife and kid. Each man could blow a gasket at any minute. Sure enough, they get themselves into serious trouble. 

Both men are anxious, broke and desperate, and get on each other's nerves after hours of winter driving, one in front, the other in back, to sad foreclosed homes. But the movie is entertaining, as they alternately loathe and amuse each other. The camera captures every close-up nuance, each slow burn. "I know," says Rose. "It's nice to have the time to see somebody thinking. One of the things I can't stand is having to cut so fast, it's incredibly boring when pace is so uniform that you can't get involved."

Rose drove to the Colorado mountains with two cars and six people: his line producer, assistant, cameraman and 7D camera, sound recordist, and two actors. The weather was very cold, below zero. "It was unbelievable, minus 18 at night in the car," he says. "The actors were very cold. When it's that cold you can't see water vapor: it's frozen. Breathing hurts your lungs. We were foolhardy, slightly stupid, and drove up the middle of a road to nowhere, it was black everywhere, no cell phone signal, the vehicle really was stuck on ice with the wheels spinning." Luckily 7D works in minus 18 Fahrenheit.

The truth of digital production is that it costs a lot less to shoot something like this ($10-20,000) than it does to finish it (about $110,000). "Completing films and delivering the elements is a considerable amount,"says Rose. "Luckily, the BFI picked up the cost of making a film look like a movie."

Somehow Rose, who directed "Candyman," also found time to indulge his love of horror with sexual ghost story "Sx_Tape," about a couple who shoot a sex tape in an old house and find that they are not alone. It's in post-production.

"Paganini: The Devil's Violinist" is a much bigger production: funded with subsidy money in Germany, the $10 million 19th century period biopic is produced by Gabriela Bacher (“What a Man”), Rosilyn Heller (“Trade”) and Christian Angermayer of Film House Germany and stars German violinist David Garrett, Joely Richardson and Jared Harris. "Garrett can pull this off," says Rose. "It's far worse to have an actor miming the violin." No more cold cramped conditions, as Rose shoots in deluxe sets in Vienna, Munich and Northern Italy: "It's my homage to Ken Russell, a full-blown epic."

This article is related to: Interviews, Interviews , Venice Film Festival, Festivals, Festivals, Los Angeles Film Festival, Danny Huston, Bernard Rose, Festivals

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.