Brian W. Cook
UK / France, 2005
Review by Jenny Jediny
Posted on 08 May 2006
Source 35mm print
Features: The 5th Annual Tribeca Film Festival
It sounds rather like an anecdote you pass on at a cocktail party; in the early 1990’s, a man named Alan Conway deceived dozens of people — ranging from complete strangers to former New York Times’ theatre critic Frank Rich — that he was, in fact, film director Stanley Kubrick. Indeed, Stanley Kubrick, even though Conway was sans beard, British, homosexual, and knew a mere handful of the director’s films. The tale has been picked up and transformed into Colour Me Kubrick, the first film from Brian W. Cook, Kubrick’s First A.D. on Eyes Wide Shut, and currently lacks U.S. distribution. Opening on a tongue in cheek note, we observe two male teenagers blatantly decked out in black leather punk gear moving purposefully through the London streets, as the familiar chords of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony play on the soundtrack — they are searching for “Stanley,” AKA Conway, who has misled them into believing he lives in a wealthy, elderly couple’s home. The reference is perhaps a tad obvious, but not without humor, and continues into the next scene as Conway makes his entrance and picks up a clothing designer, but as “Stanley,” and at a bar where the logo features a familiar image of arch-backed, alabaster women (milk, anyone?).
Cook obviously knows the director’s oeuvre, as the scenes and musical cues would cause recognition even in the greenest of Kubrick fans. However, the film winds its way into something ultimately shallow and superficial, as the references are merely persistent and ill-placed within a weak script. This particular element reflects the film’s entire attitude toward Conway, which is non-committal at best and only works to impress on the most superficial of levels. The film becomes a series of indistinguishable vignettes, perhaps designed to portray some kind of outdated, swinging London mentality, as gay men in particular fall prey to Conway’s assumed identity. Moving from one wealthy victim to the next we see Conway try on a New York accent, a lisp, and something resembling Charles Nelson Reilly as he discusses his breakfast meetings with “Jack” and “Little Tommy Cruise.” Nothing connects though, leaving a complete lack of dynamic energy (although I suppose the tacked on investigation from the New York Times was intended for that effect) and a feeling of fruitlessness.
Certainly there is something to be said in the realm of star culture and theory as the escalating rate of paparazzi attacks and “incidents” over photographs to feed a star hungry culture are only motivated by our undivided attention to such stars and their barely private lives. Although it is difficult — perhaps only in a contemporary sense — to comprehend the notion that these people fell for Conway’s ruse, knowing the now familiar image of the bearded and enigmatic Kubrick would have been easy to research on Gawker, it would have been interesting to explore a genuine idea of celebrity, the incredible willingness to believe after brushing up against a screen icon, let alone being promised a film role or opportunity to create a score for his next work Unfortunately, the film comes nowhere near these ideas, instead seeming satisfied to revel in its own self-referential delight and irritatingly in its lead, John Malkovich, which led me to honestly wonder if the actor was cast just so the filmmakers could reference the actor within the film à la Being John Malkovich. Frustrating and essentially pablum, Colour Me Kubrick sheds no light on its subject matter, although in hindsight, how much could one expect from a pale imitation of a man who moved far beyond the Hollywood hills and let his work genuinely speak for himself? In the end, I was only left craving that authenticity and certainly the films he left behind.