Color Me Kubrick (2005)
"I'm only trying to escape myself."- Alan Conway (Stanley Kubrick)
Stars: John Malkovich
Other Stars: Richard E. Grant, Bill Hootkins, Marisa Berenson
Director: Brian Cook
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 01h:26m:26s
Release Date: 2007-03-27
DVD ReviewIf you were looking to shed your own skin and step into another's in quest of higher status, you probably couldn't do much better than Stanley Kubrick—one of the great filmmakers, his output was relatively sparse, and he was personally elusive, if not quite a recluse of Pynchonesque proportions. A fellow named Alan Conway made some hay in London before Kubrick's death by posing as the director, and this film is a gloss on his story; there isn't much to this, though, suggesting either that Conway's cons weren't very interesting, or that the filmmakers lack imaginative flair, or both.
John Malkovich plays Conway, who knows that most people know Kubrick by reputation, but almost nothing about him personally, so Conway merrily adopts a new accent for each potential mark—sometimes it's Kubrick the cowboy, sometimes Kubrick the Oxbridge don, sometimes Kubrick the pauncy hairdresser. Malkovich seems to be having fun mincing through the role, but it's clear that Conway is a pretty shoddy impersonator, and that there's not much here. He doesn't try to get away with much, in fact—the attention of a particularly attractive young man at a gay bar, maybe, or a few drinks or the price of a good meal, and it's kind of funny to see that Conway's Kubrick likes to take home the young men he meets and then slip into fishnets and garters. But it all only registers as kind of pathetic, really, because Conway's a pretty bad liar, and his victims are generally sorry little characters themselves. Conway as Kubrick talks about his strong working relationship with Annette Funicello, for instance, and when he's planning to produce the Vegas act of a third-rate cabaret performer, he promises to call up his close personal friend and Nevada luminary Moe Green. So you're stuck not marveling at his brilliance, but at wondering who's more pathetic—someone trafficking in such laughably transparent lies, or the poor dopes who believe what he says.
The unlikely and only briefly seen agent of Conway's undoing is Frank Rich, now a columnist for The New York Times, at that point the paper's chief theater critic—he writes a piece about Conway being a nuisance, and we keep hoping for the truly big score. Can Conway coast on Kubrick's reputation long enough to get some major film financing underway, or at least to attract the attention of the high and mighty in the film business? He can't, and doesn't even try, and makes the catalyst of Six Degrees of Separation seem like a criminal mastermind in comparison, and Conway's torturous bits of dime-store self-analysis are just kind of embarrassing.
You'd sort of hope that the filmmakers would take the opportunity to play off of Kubrick's own films, but just a few bars of Thus Spake Zarathrustra and The Blue Danube Waltz, along with a couple of Conway marks who seem to have gone to school on A Clockwork Orange, are all we get. The occasional little bits of heartbreak—from those victimized by Conway who so want to believe that the great man has seen greatness in them—aren't worth the price of admission.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: A blotchy and faded transfer—London deserves better.
Image Transfer Grade: D+
Audio Transfer Review: Generally clear on both the 2.0 and 5.1 tracks—it's not the dynamics but Malkovich's variable accents that are all over the place.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Fay Grim, Diggers
Extras Review: The principal extra is Being Alan Conway (47m:05s), featuring lots of on-set footage, and interviews with Malkovich, director Brian Cook and producer Michael Fitzgerald along with other members of the production team, and cast members Richard E. Grant, Marisa Berenson, and a weirdly hostile Bill Hootkins (who plays Rich), an actor who proudly announces how much he hates directors. This goes on for a while, but there's not much insight to be gleaned.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsA lumbering account of a small-time con artist who lucked into the idea of impersonating Stanley Kubrick, but neither he nor those telling his story can figure out what to do with the premise.
Jon Danziger 2007-04-03