Filmworker (2017) | BFI London Film Festival 2017

October 6th, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Tony Zierra | Documentary with Leon Vitali; USA | 94′.

Stanley Kubrick is without doubt one of the greats of 20th Century cinema. His perfectionism and dedication is also legendary as Tony Zierra (My big Break) illustrates in his haunting documentary of how an actor fell under Kubrick’s spell, becoming his right-hand man in an act of near-religious submission. Even now, 18 years after his master’s death, he works tirelessly transposing the film archive onto 4K material.

In 1975, actor Leon Vitali was a young man with a great film and stage future ahead of him and offers from the National Theatre. Securing one of the main parts as Lord Bullingdon in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Vitali went on to admire Kubrick so much, that he soon gave up his acting career to learn the craft, finally talking Kubrick into getting him a job on the The Shining (1980). Once Kubrick had gained his trust, Vitali was tasked with casting the child roles for the Cult horror feature. In Full Metal Jacket (1987), Vitali’s main contribution was helping the actors live up to the exacting demands of the director. Whilst returning to his acting career in Kubrick’s final feature Eyes wide Shut (1999), Vitali also helped with various technical tasks.

Being around Kubrick meant often working a 16 hour day and Vitali became a trusted adjutant of the control freak, even worked around the clock during large projects. His three children, who are interviewed, leave no doubt that they came second in the pecking order for Dad’s attention. Other interviewees, like Ryan O’Neal and Matthew Modine, talk about Vitali’s obsessive relationship with the often cantankerous Kubrick. If Vitali detected others’ shortcomings, he brought them to Kubrick’s attention. The obsessive job has taken its toll on Vitali. Physically as well as psychologically, he has aged beyond his years. Now haggard, he’s still driven by fulfilling a self-imposed workload as Kubrick’s personal assistant beyond the grave. FILMMAKER is an absorbing and haunting portrait of obsession. AS


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