Filmworker (2017)

May 9th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Tony Zierra | With Leon Vitali, Ryan O’Neal, Danny Lloyd, Matthew Modine, Stellan Skarsgard, Pernilla August | Doc | US  | 94′

Director Tony Zierra (My Big Break) shows how easy it was for one actor to become obsessed by the legend that was Stanley Kubrick, becoming his right-hand collaborator and dedicating his life to Kubrick’s films, and even now, 18 years after the director’s death, working to transfers the master’s oeuvre onto 4K material.

In 1975, actor Leon Vitali (287), a young man with a great future ahead of him on both screen and stage – he had offers from the National Theatre – landed one of the main parts as Lord Bullingdon in Stanley Kubrick’s epic Barry Lyndon. Vitali admired Kubrick so much that he soon abandoned his acting career to learn about filmmaking, finally talking Kubrick into getting him a job on The Shining (1980). And Vitali was so quick to earn Kubrick’s trust that he was tasked with casting the child parts for the Cult horror feature, discovering little Danny Lloyd. For Full Metal Jacket (1987), Vitali’s main contribution was enabling the actors to live up to the harsh and 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. 

Well that’s the nuts and bolts of this well-made and engaging documentary, enriched by archive footage and photographs including informative talking heads who enlighten further on one of the World’s most outstanding 20th century filmmaker. Kubrick was a perfectionist and control freak, and working with him often meant putting in 16 hours a day; Vitali became  the trusted adjutant and their two often working round the clock often even worked around the clock. Kubrick’s three children, who are interviewed, make it quite clear 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 Kubrick, who was often bad-tempered when Vitali did not follow his orders. And clearly this obsessive relationship has taken its toll on Vitali, physically as well as psychologically. He looks much older than his actual age, haggard, and still driven by fulfilling the tasks he sets himself as Kubrick’s personal assistant for life.

Filmworker is a haunting portrait of a man who has submerged his own identity to serve another in a near religious case of submission. But when it comes to posterity, he couldn’t have chosen a more rigorous genius to learn from. AS



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