Unknown to the general public but fascinating to followers of Stanley Kubrick, the name Leon Vitali takes center stage in Tony Zierra’s “Filmworker.” Vitali, who moved from the onscreen role of Lord Bullingdon in “Barry Lyndon” to the offscreen one as Kubrick’s general factotum for a quarter of a century, may have been credited as the famous director’s “personal assistant,” but Zierra reveals the astonishing extent of Vitali’s loyalty. Drawing from a deep trove of Kubrick-related media, including extensive clips from the master’s films, it goes without saying that “Filmworker” will be sought by Kubrick completists, but the movie also appeals to anyone who has been seduced by the process of motion picture making.
Zierra’s own filmmaking style is a far cry from the meticulous aesthetics brought to the screen by Kubrick. Mostly static talking-head interviews with Vitali -- unremarkable in framing and locations -- form the central narration, but Zierra invites a couple dozen others to speak on camera, including Kubrick performers Ryan O’Neal, Danny Lloyd, Matthew Modine, Tim Colceri, R. Lee Ermey, and Marie Richardson. Just as valuable are the appearances of Vitali’s fellow below-the-line filmworkers, many of whom attest to the devotion and self-sacrifice of their friend and colleague.
“Filmworker” retells a few anecdotes well-known to Kubrick fans: the physical beating Vitali took from O’Neal in take after painful take; Vitali’s careful handling and mentoring of Lloyd; the replacement of Colceri with Ermey as Sgt. Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket.” Vitali, candid and open about his reverence for Kubrick if not the full extent of the personal costs it exacted on him, speaks with pride of his wide-ranging career accomplishments. Zierra builds several excellent sequences detailing Vitali’s sponge-like thirst for film production knowledge and the benefits it yielded (and continues to yield), including a virtually perfect and encyclopedic recall regarding Kubrick’s exacting color timing specifications.
Toward the end of the film, Zierra covers the massive, retrospective, traveling museum exhibition that spans the breadth of Kubrick’s filmography, and notes that Vitali was not invited to participate in its curation or construction. Fastidiously cautious, Vitali refuses to speak ill of Kubrick’s wife Christiane and Christiane’s brother Jan Harlan, but the gap raises tantalizing questions about the dynamics of that relationship Zierra elects not to probe more thoroughly. A similar cloud hangs over the relationship Vitali shared with his own children. While they speak on camera to summarize, predictably, the memories of a childhood in which their father spent most waking hours toiling for his demanding boss, Zierra exercises perhaps too much restraint.
Alongside Harlan’s own “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures” and other authorized content, Zierra’s documentary joins Kubrickiana like Jon Ronson’s “Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes,” Rodney Ascher’s “Room 237,” and Alex Infascelli’s “S Is for Stanley” in a growing media library that accompanies the massive print collection of material dissecting various aspects of Kubrick’s life and work. In this particular case, Vitali’s own allegiance won’t dispel any of the mythology surrounding Kubrick’s often contradictory sides (gentle/ferocious; warm/distant; esoteric/down-to-earth, etc.), but Zierra does manage to achieve something tangible: a well-articulated and wholly compelling argument that no matter how one feels about the auteur, moviemaking is a collaborative art.
June 19th 2019
June 12th 2019
June 5th 2019
May 29th 2019
May 22nd 2019
By C.S. Hagen and Melissa GonzalezFARGO – A public meeting to begin laying the groundwork toward establishing better hate crime legislation across the state soured Wednesday afternoon receiving criticism and spurring two people…
by John Showalter
“I haven’t been to Fargo in a couple of years,” comedian Spencer Dobson said. “But it’s always had great stage time and funny, enthusiastic comics.” Born in the small town of Voss, ND (pop 29), Dobson has been all…
Martin Scorsese embraces the prankster spirit of a longtime inspiration/subject in “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story.” The confounding testimony is as much mockumentary as documentary, combining new interviews and…
by Sabrina Hornung
You may have seen Nicki Marie slingin’ her elaborately folded paper star creations at various craft and cultural festivals around the region. She was also a recipient of a folk art and traditional apprenticeship grant made…
by HPR Contributor
by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…