It’s difficult to imagine how one attains the degree of brilliance displayed time and time again by Stanley Kubrick. In his career he directed only thirteen feature films, yet almost all of them irreversibly altered their genre and sparked imitation both good and bad. With this genius, though, came a work ethic and a compulsive dedication to his craft that would make Kubrick notoriously difficult to work with. There are many stories often told about Kubrick’s borderline abuses of his actors in trying to get the perfect performance out of them. However, in Tony Zierra’s Filmworker, the tolls and rewards of Kubrick’s brilliance are on full display through the eyes of the person who took the most abuse, nearly none of the glory, and who was almost as dedicated to the master’s art as Kubrick himself.
Leon Vitali started his career as an actor in the early 70s. He worked in massive quantities, gaining dozens of credits in a variety of largely forgotten British TV shows prior to his first encounter with Stanley Kubrick in 1975’s Barry Lyndon. That film, which produced Vitali’s most recognized role as the childlike Lord Bullingdon, was also the one that would change his perspective toward the practice of filmmaking. He became obsessed with the technical process of constructing a film and became determined to move behind the camera despite a promising acting career. Vitali went on to little independent success after that point, instead dedicating himself almost entirely to assisting Stanley Kubrick with his final three films and with any other project involving Kubrick’s work until the director’s death.
I finished the film feeling saddened by the treatment of Leon following Kubrick’s death, however, I find comfort in the fact that Leon’s story has now been told, and that people are coming to realise the impact he had on the face of cinema.
Documentary | USA, 2018 | 15 | 23rd July 2018 (UK) | DVD | Dogwoof | Dir.Tony Zierra | Leon Vitali, Stanley Kubrick, Ryan O’Neal, Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey