Directed by Bernard Rose. Starring Danny Huston, Matthew Jacobs, Lisa Enos Club, IFI, Dublin, 91 mins
Beat it, heavenly spheres. If there’s a more pleasing sound in the universe than the patrician tones of Danny Huston, we haven’t heard it.
To date, nobody has made better use of that unique Hustonov modulation than plucky British maverick Bernard Rose. Boxing Day marks the third collaboration between director Rose and leading man Huston and – following on from Ivansxtc and The Kreutzer Sonata – their third crack at a Leo Tolstoy joint.
Boxing Day, an unfettered adaptation of Tolstoy’s short story Master and Man, transforms a pre-Revolutionary Russian landowner into Huston’s ill-defined, contemporary venture capitalist.
Brusque, avaricious and unnamed, it requires all of Huston’s charm to keep us onside as the entrepreneur cajoles and lightly sneers at his crumpled chauffeur, Nick (Matthew Jacobs). The driver, a divorced deadbeat with a furious ex-wife (Lisa Enos, the former Mrs Rose), can ill afford to complain, and the two men venture further and further into wintry, snowbound Colorado in search of properties on the verge of foreclosure.
Regardless of the increasingly perilous conditions, the Master has no intention of turning back. But is there an old school Tolstoy-brand fall and redemption in the works?
We’re used to seeing Huston ramp up the charisma for otherwise irredeemable characters. Here, Jacobs (a film-maker by trade) proves the equal of the better-known actor. Shot in stark digital and pared way, way back into a neat two-step, Rose retains the essence of his source despite the lo-fi production values.
As ever, the British director has turned in a fine piece of guerrilla cinema jollied along by thundering performance, colourful class sniping and bleakest midwinter. May we have a Tolstoy quadrilogy, please?