Filmworker - This Kubrick-centric Movie Rocks
Dir: Tony Zierra
Starring Leon Vitali, Ryan O'Neal, Danny Lloyd, Matthew Modine, R Lee Ermey, Stellan Skarsgard
Or – “How the blonde one from The Fenn Street Gang gave up acting and devoted the rest of his life to serving Stanley Kubrick.”
Leon Vitali, who admittedly now looks like Keith Richards’ more hard living older brother, has had something of a remarkable life. A heartthrob young British actor on such TV “classics” as Please Sir! and its sequel, The Fenn Street Gang, who once graced the cover of Look In comic, he then found himself cast in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. And connected with the elusive, reclusive auteur in such a manner that he gave everything up to devote his life to the maestro. Full Metal Jacket’s Matthew Modine describes him here as a moth drawn inexorably to Kubrick’s flame, and it’s easy to see it that way from Zierra’s engrossing film portrait. But there is more to Vitali than just a besotted follower. He devoted himself to learning whatever Kubrick demanded (and demanded is the world) of him, from colour grading his movies, to finding Danny Lloyd to play Danny Torrance in The Shining, to looking after his dogs – whatever Kubrick needed, he turned to Vitali to provide. And given that obsessive nature of the director, it becomes more and more clear as you watch Filmworker, that maybe he wouldn’t have been free to make his movies had he not had someone there to pick up the pieces of minutiae that he clearly needed to have control over.
Zierra’s film features brief talking heads moments with Ryan O’Neal, Modine, R Lee Ermey and more, but it benefits hugely from the time it spends in the company of Vitali himself. Now older, now certainly wearier, he is nonetheless a charming man who still holds loyal to what he clearly saw as his life’s calling. Some do indeed come to serve.
Although the film suggests that Vitali’s role in Kubrick’s remaining legacy has been unjustly sidelined, there is no bitterness in him. Despite the cantankerous nature of Kubrick and his blinkered vision to the real-life needs of all those around (“Take 138 anyone?”) Vitali clearly had a deep and abiding platonic love for the man he became a “filmworker” for. And that love rightly shines through this fascinating movie.
Plus, it really makes you want to go and see Barry Lyndon again right away. And that’s never a bad thing.
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