Clunky por­trait of Kubrick’s loyal right-hand man

The Irish Times - - Friday Life Film & Music - DON­ALD CLARKE

FILM­WORKER ★★★ Di­rected by Tony Zierra. 15A cert, lim­ited re­lease, 94 mins

This doc­u­men­tary on the man who acted as fac­to­tum to Stan­ley Kubrick in the later decades of his ca­reer prob­a­bly re­quires the viewer to buy into the holy myth of that film-maker. The ded­i­ca­tion that Leon Vi­tali, orig­i­nally an ac­tor, ex­hib­ited to­wards Kubrick would seem like mad­ness if the films weren’t worth see­ing. It still seems a lit­tle like mad­ness.

Vi­tali was do­ing quite well for him­self be­fore he was cast as Lord Bulling­don in Barry Lyn­don. Kubrick liked Vi­tali and Vi­tali re­spected Kubrick. When the shoot was over, Vi­tali stud­ied as­pects of the film-mak­ing process with a mind to se­cur­ing a job with Kubrick. By the end of the 1970s, he was help­ing Kubrick de­velop The Shin­ing. It was Vi­tali who cast young Danny Lloyd as Danny. He went on to be­come a pro­tec­tor, min­der, lo­gis­tics bof­fin and, when the di­rec­tor died, a pro­tec­tor of his legacy.

In­ter­viewed at length, Vi­tali comes across as a gen­uine evan­ge­list for the Kubrick­ian faith. With creased face and long, strag­gly hair, he gives the im­pres­sion of a well-worn Rolling Stone dis­cussing Ex­ile on Main Street from an is­land re­treat. There aren’t a great many sur­prises. He ex­plains that Kubrick could be charm­ing when he wanted to be and, when the mood took him, an ab­so­lute mon­ster. His ob­ses­sion with re­peated takes is blamed on a de­sire to get the scenes clear within his own head.

Any­body with any in­ter­est in Kubrick will be di­verted by Film­worker, but it re­mains an oddly clunky piece of work. A good hour into the film, hav­ing given us lit­tle back­ground on Vi­tali, the film brings us back to his youth to sug­gest his re­la­tion­ship with Kubrick mir­rors that with his op­pres­sive fa­ther. No at­tempt is made to pull apart the in­ad­e­qua­cies of Kubrick’s last two films.

There is also a deeply puz­zling si­lence from the wives of both Vi­tali and Kubrick. If there is some sort of breach with Chris­tiane Kubrick – whose name barely ap­pears – then we needed to be told.

Leon Vi­tali and Stan­ley Kubrick

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