Foreign films rarely seem to get a lot of publicity in the US. It’s a shame, really. The US hardly has a monopoly on movies. True, not all foreign films are all that great, but then not all American films are good either. I discovered Color Me Kubrick (2006) while rummaging around in a used DVD bin at my local Blockbuster. What drew me to it was the fact that John Malkovich looks nothing like Stanley Kubrick. I figured this was a sure indicator of a lousy film, or at best lousy casting. But I watched it anyway and I was pleasantly surprised.
Set in London in 1990’s, a balding alcoholic with an unsteady American accent introduces himself in pubs and other social setting as Stanley Kubrick. Drinks and meals are suddenly on the house or paid for by an admiring person who finds Stanley fascinating. But this man is not Stanley Kubrick. He’s an Englishman by the name of Alan Conway (John Malkovich). He has conned many people into believing that he is the reclusive American director, despite the fact that Conway is openly gay, bares no physical resemblance to Kubrick, and knows little about the director’s work. The clever conman scrounges drinks, cash, and sexual favors from an array of unsuspecting victims ranging from heavy metal bands to wine bar owner (Richard E. Grant) to a British lounge singer (Jim Davidson). All are awestruck by his alleged fame and fortune, and overlook Conway’s genuinely bizarre behavior in hopes of impressing the great director. But when he tries to fool New York Times theater critic Frank Rich (William Hootkins), Conway’s act begins to unravel.
You could call Color Me Kubrick a kind of satire of celebrity worship. The people Conway interacts with are instantly star struck and are willing to bend over backwards to impress this person who claims to be a famous movie director. Few people even bother to think that in no way does Conway resemble Kubrick. Sure, his ruse is caught by a few people, but most of the characters simply worship Conway for no reason other than he says he’s famous. We really do often give unmerited glory and honor to people of a celebrity status simply because they are famous. Color Me Kubrick kind of shows us how we get so caught up in that fanaticism that we could easily be taken advantage of. What’s scary is this movie is based on true events.
Conway’s character was brilliantly acted. Conway doesn’t seem to have any idea who Stanley Kubrick is and puts on different personas with each con job. Sometimes acting like an English gentleman, other times acting like a flamboyant Jewish stereotype. We don’t seem to see enough of Conway’s real self, which makes the character a bit difficult to relate to, but that fits into the story. No one seems to know who this man really is, and neither do we. Malkovich did a great job with all the “Kubrick” masks he wears.
One of the really neat parts of Color Me Kubrick was periodic homage to Kubrick’s films. In fact, the opening scene is a direct homage to A Clockwork Orange, in which we see the after-effects of Conway’s minor cons. Two thugs are sent to collect a bar bill that Conway has generated by impersonating Kubrick. Conway had provided the address of an elderly couple as Kubrick’s home address. Of course the elderly couple has no idea who Conway is nor do they know Stanley Kubrick. The two thugs (one wearing a bowler hat) try to force their way into the couple’s home and get arrested for causing a ruckus. This wasn’t part of Conway’s design, just a very clever artistic license taken by the director.
The movie also uses classical music pieces that were famously used in Kubrick films. Some of the songs include The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss, as used in the docking scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It also used Henry Purcell’s Funeral of Queen Mary and Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell Overture as they each appear in A Clockwork Orange. The film isn’t trying to imitate Kubrick’s directing style, and the Kubrick homage isn’t terribly overt. You probably wouldn’t even recognize them if you hadn’t seen some of Kubrick’s well known films.
The movie does become repetitive since it is mostly a series of anecdotes about Conway swindling people. It still remains amusing to watch nonetheless. The film is not rated, and even though sexual themes are alluded to, there’s nothing I could see offending anyone. It does use some language, though; F-bombs are frequently used by some of the Heavy Metal band characters and a few others. I thought it was an okay movie. I’m glad I saw it. I recommend seeing it if you have seen several Kubrick films, otherwise you probably won’t appreciate it that much.
What is your favorite Stanly Kubrick film? Comment below and tell me why!