Filmworker

Kubrick's Igor and More

         
 

13 September 2018| No Comments on Filmworker     by Sean Chavel

 

 

Absolutely necessary for any card-carrying member of the Stanley Kubrick cult. Filmworker profiles Leon Vitali, a handsome raw and loose Mick Jagger type, whose dream after seeing “2001: A Space Odyssey” was to some day work for the master. Vitali aspiration was to graduate beyond the sitcom actor that he was, and by the mid-seventies he landed a role in Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” as Lord Bullingdon. On set he impressed Kubrick so much that the master continually thought of new expanded scenes for the actor. Once the shoot was over, Vitali asked for some career advice. And so after Vitali acted in “Terror of Frankenstein,” he volunteered no pay to sit in the editing room on that project. Vitali called Kubrick and told him what he learned. Soon after, Kubrick sent Vitali to America to find a boy that could act as Danny in his next film “The Shining.” Vitali was responsible for other casting decisions, too, down the line.

And so there’s more in all of that, and so much more after that. The film is loaded with fascinating nuggets of all things Kubrick. There is rare footage of behind-the-scenes on “The Shining” set and pre-production on “Full Metal Jacket.” Vitali wore many hats on the job, and in post-production, approved of thousands of color timed prints among other laborious work, all told in detail. Really, Kubrick’s visions were so big that he delegated Vitali to do some of the major heavy lifting off-set that it could be called unofficial directing. Vitali also had to bear Kubrick’s brazen tantrums, and in time, learned how to pre-empt those moments to protect himself and others unbeknownst on how Kubrick liked things done.

If there was anything maddening about this documentary it is that it mentions Kubrick’s unmade “Aryan Papers” for about twenty-seconds and then hastily moves on. I was convinced that Vitali knew Kubrick better than any person alive by the time the 1980’s were over, better than Kubrick’s wife, and so if there was anybody that could fill in juicy details on the failed project, it would be Vitali. But nothing more is said than I knew already (“Schindler’s List” by Spielberg was made, Kubrick took a pause from following his film up with that success; Kubrick also became depressed from developing a Holocaust film). Yet there is a substantial amount of making-of footage of “Eyes Wide Shut,” and you can see for yourself how Kubrick and Vitali were working around the clock. By the end, you really do digest it well that Kubrick had literally worked himself to death. And Vitali, skin and bones, sorely malnourished, fought through illness to keep working on behalf of Kubrick. I don’t imagine Vitali’s children saw enough of him for three years during the ordeal of Kubrick’s final film, and “Filmworker,” while it does interview them, could have had them say more about their often removed father.

Vitali gave up on his own acting career to be of service to a legend. His appearance is that of a burned out warrior as he speaks now in his 70’s. You’re amazed by him, and for a moment pity him, because by the mid-2000’s he was running out of money – and was modest about it. You watch “Filmworker” and want to go out and start a GoFundMe page on behalf of Vitali. I mean, you wonder why Warner Bros. didn’t just rescue him and give him a career on their lot. Vitali was already on the lot doing posthumous Kubrick restorations stuff, and he is obviously an expertise in all things film.

There’s so much remembrance here with peppered anecdotes that I’m certainly sure I’d actually revisit this immersive documentary again somewhere down the line, being the Kubrick fanatic that I am.

89 Minutes. Unrated.

DOCUMENTARY / THINKING TEENS / AFTERNOON FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Film Cousins:  “Barry Lyndon” (1975); “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures” (2001); “Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes” (2008); “Jodorowsky’s Dune” (2014).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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