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Color Me Kubrick
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by Marc Kandel

"A Crackpot Lemon"
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL-- Stanley Kubrick: Filmmaker. Director. Genius. Cockroach. Entrepreneur. Financier. Litterbug. Gentleman of Leisure. Eccentric. Cross Dresser. Talent Manager. Liar. Booking Agent. Fraud. Homosexual. Cheap Vodka Aficionado. Sociopath. Alcoholic. Mentally Ill. Confidence Man.

Thought I’d stop after the first three, right? Were I speaking of Stanley Kubrick, you’d be right. I’m actually describing Alan Conway, the man who would be Kubrick.

Alan Conway, a low, seedy little parasite with some small eloquence, little to no knowledge of his subject matter, staggering chutzpah and sharp, methodical commitment to his deception, overwhelming even his most grievous inconsistencies in accent and demeanor, lives the high life, garnering swag, food, money and sex from his enthusiastic dupes, eager to indulge the fantasy of rubbing shoulders with and gaining advancement through the preeminent director he portrays. As enraged victims of Conway’s fraud multiply and his facade faces exposure by the media, Alan must channel his confidence skills to escape the consequences of his actions; will he be clever enough to do so?

We are brought into Alan’s world first by reputation only, as we encounter victims of his various undertakings stumbling around London in anger and desperation, searching for, if I may paraphrase, that “rotten fuck Stanley Kubrick wot owes us money!” After this sublime, hilarious buildup, we meet the man himself, played with great appetite by John Malkovich, devouring the juice this role oozes, and we become a silent companion in his cheesy masquerade.

And what a masquerade it is, featuring a Kubrick who is legion; I counted roughly four versions of “Stanley Kubrick” emanating from Conway: a Tottenham Court dainty, a Liverpoolian commoner, a Long Island nebbish persona, and some slurred mutation of Cary Grant, none of them approximating the reality, all sloppy, obvious caricatures oftentimes smeared together, sometimes going from one extreme to the other mid-sentence. One would think Conway the grossest incompetent at his chosen mode of subsistence, if not for his mind-boggling success, if the true…ish nature of the film is to be believed.

So what do we learn?

We discover the greater number of people are ready, willing and able to accept the most outlandish definitions of celebrity and will cater to anyone willing to match these behaviours and affectations to their satisfaction for the chance to even fleetingly associate with greatness. Conway’s marks don’t fuel him with coin, caviar and cock because of their admiration of the medium of film or even because they thought “The Shining” was awesome- of course they did, but they find the idea of being known as knowing the celebrity Stanley Kubrick and having access to his connections and monies far “cooler” than any of the director’s creations.

Conway capitalizes on this mentality, presenting himself with calculated eccentricity and unpredictable daring in place of fact and background. That he actually knows anything about Kubrick is inconsequential- he doesn’t. Not really. His shameless appearance, lazy to manic airs of sophistication and wisdom, and alluring promises of glory for his chosen mark are enough to seal the deal. At one point "Kubrick" is called upon to list some of his films, and can barely scrounge up even the easiest, most obvious answers, actually sputtering out a film or two Kubrick had nothing to do with. In fact the only film Conway seems to have the barest recollection of is “Spartacus”, if only to hiss the occasional anecdote about “Miss Kirk Douglasssss.” One can easily understand why Conway would choose the personality of Kubrick as I doubt there are few people reading this who could summon a clear picture of the director, yet everyone would recognize the name, but to be so lax in even the slightest biographical or professional information? It's a dangerous tightrope to navigate, which Alan appears to relish. The higher the stakes and the longer he can push the game, the better.

What we do not learn is “Who is Alan Conway?” We have a few facts- he is an alcoholic, he has a penchant for women’s clothing, he is homosexual, he has a roommate who knows his game but we don’t know why this person is privy to Alan’s secrets nor what their relationship is beyond roommates. His motivations appear simple, his conquests petty, ranging from free drinks to sex, to some thousands of dollars in food, drink, lodging and the occasional gifts; his suckers lose much more in money, time, career, reputation, self-worth, some burning their professional and social bridges immediately believing Kubrick the answer to their prayers, only to be left with an inoperative number and a throbbing anus as Conway detaches himself to a pursue a new host.

Who Conway is, why he does what he does, is defined more by the people who encounter him, rather than our all-too brief glimpses of the true Conway (I can recall only one moment actually where the veneer is completely pulled back). His contradictions- intelligent and cunning, yet seemingly too lazy or disinterested to do the slightest bit of research into the man he is impersonating, fastidious in his upkeep of his tiny apartment, yet grotesque in his appearance and accoutrements (he carries around a ratty handbag whose contents appear to consist of Jackdaw-like trinkets and scraps, a bottle of vodka that may or may not be empty or full, and a large purple stuffed animal with a monstrously engorged phallus). He’s too much of a repellant oddity to actually root for, too much a preying insect to believe he’s teaching anyone a lesson, too unscrupulous a reptile to admire.

So in the end it's a countdown to whether Alan can make his escape before his increasingly daring hustles are uncovered. And so we start to count rather than care. Does he triumph in the end? Does it matter? The film goes from tongue in cheek to disturbing, just skirting tragic to tongue and cheek again. There are plenty of laughs to be sure, but the core is empty as any of the faux-Kubrick’s promises of fame and glory. If we were given one moment to actually connect with Alan as anything other than a predator, that might be different. But alas, the film is more concerned with the cleverness of the game than the man behind it.

Once you get over the incredulity of someone actually pulling this stunt, you want to know why. A scene where a con goes awry and another quick moment at the tail end of the film give us answers of sorts, but the sincerity of these moments is questionable. Never understanding the genesis of Alan’s obsessions and needs, we don’t appreciate or receive satisfaction at the completion of his goals beyond our enjoyment of his low cunning and the havoc it wreaks- had the film made a distinct choice rather than fence sitting between the camps of character piece, dark comedy, and social satire we might have a more solid experience.

“Color Me Kubrick” is reasonably enjoyable film that, like Alan Conway, wears out its welcome quickly, telling an interesting tale while omitting the real story.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14386&reviewer=358
originally posted: 05/10/06 16:40:36
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2006 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/13/07 William Goss Malkovich passes himself off as the reclusive director time and time again. It gets old. 3 stars
12/02/07 I-K Pretty damn uncanny; it's revolting, but you can't look away, just like a real Kubrick film 4 stars
7/20/07 Ole Man Bourbon I thought the premise sustained, lots of laughs 4 stars
5/04/07 Indrid Cold Could easily have been a lot funnier, but still fairly enjoyable. 3 stars
7/04/06 john bale Malkovitch sashays through London with obvious relish. One for Film buffs 4 stars
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  23-Mar-2007 (NR)
  DVD: 27-Mar-2007


  08-Jun-2006 (M)

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Brian Cook

Written by
  Anthony Frewin

  John Malkovich
  Jim Davidson
  Richard E. Grant
  Luke Malby
  Marc Warren
  Terence Rigby

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