Monday, March 26, 2007

Review: Color Me Kubrick

I wouldn't say I'd been conned, but I was disappointed by this film. It didn't live up to the wackiness promised by its trailer. It's The John Malkovich Show. To put his performance in Kubrick terms, think Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Once again, Heeeere's Johnny!

Color Me Kubrick is based on the true story of Alan Conway, a gay con artist who duped many by pretending to be Stanley Kubrick. His deceptions range from borrowing 20 quid from a couple of punk rock dudes for vodka and cigarettes (the punks reason: "rich people never have cash on's vulgar") to co-signing for a large loan for a nightclub owner to convincing a British lounge singer to take him along on his holiday by telling him he can get him a gig in Vegas.

It's an interesting premise. As a film geek, I'd recognize Kubrick on the street (if he were still alive, that is), but I guess many people wouldn't. The reclusive director certainly didn't have the recognition-factor of a Hitchcock, a Tarantino or a Spielberg. Could you pick John Ford or Peter Weir out of a lineup? Probably not.

But the movie never delves deep enough into Conway's psyche to make us understand his motivations or sympathize with him. I didn't find him appealing, and I also didn't feel sorry for most of his victims, who are portrayed as just wanting to be near someone famous due to their own shallowness and vanity. Malkovich can be enthralling and seductive, as he was in Dangerous Liaisons, but here he's mostly just irritating.

The costume designer had fun with Malkovich, and his outfits keep things amusing. There are also several musical nods to Kubrick films, and director Brian Cook (who served as an assistant director to Kubrick), and writer Anthony Frewin (Kubrick's personal assistant) certainly know their source material. Still, there doesn't seem to be much structure to the film, and it comes off as a series of con vignettes without any overarching plot to tie them together.

All in all, while the film has some entertaining moments, I'd have to recommend it only for big John Malkovich fans.

And as an aside - I never get tired of watching Kubrick bully Shelley Duvall in the brief but amazing "making-of" documentary on The Shining DVD. It was directed by Kubrick's teen daughter Vivian!

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