Leon Vitali does not refer to himself as Stanley Kubrick’s personal assistant, but an unspecific, self-effacing “filmworker” instead. And that’s half the problem: Vitali’s absence from our general understanding of Kubrick’s work means he never received the praise he deserved.
Thankfully, Tony Zierra has made a documentary that is about to change things by acknowledging Vitali’s tireless contribution to Kubrick’s filmography – from the 16-hour shifts he worked seven days a week, to the “semi”-raw chicken he ate before shooting the duel scene in Barry Lyndon.
Kubrick’s enduring appeal has generated many a film about him. A lesser filmmaker would try and sell their film on its exclusive stories from the set (and yes, there are some real gems to be found), but Zierra admirably transforms his documentary into a tribute to the hard work and dedication behind the scenes. At the end of the film, the credits roll over blurred, slightly faster ones presumably taken from the previous Kubrick docs that neglect to mention Vitali – a simple but effective finishing touch.
Given Kubrick’s monomaniacal reputation, it is hard to imagine a more different pairing than the two. Now in his 60s, Vitali’s long hair and British accent present him more of an ageing hippy than anyone remotely involved in the glamour of filmmaking. He unearths a treasure trove of old notebooks, film prints and letters handwritten by Kubrick himself. There is so much to discover that it is difficult to walk away from this film when the credits roll.
Tony Zierra neatly topples our preconceptions about the film industry and pays a tribute to the dedication and patient diligence of Leon Vitali’s labour. Candid and unsentimental, Filmworker is bound to leave an impression on the minds of any cinephile.
CAST: Leon Vitali, Ryan O’Neal, Danny Lloyd, Matthew Modine
DIRECTOR: Tony Zierra
SYNOPSIS: The untold story of Stanely Kubrick’s right-hand man, Leon Vitali.[TRAILER FORTHCOMING]