Diary of a Master and his Forgotten Sidekick – Filmworker (DVD Review)

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Stanley Kubrick. A man synonymous with classic films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining. A name that carries a notoriety with it, as a result of the director’s obsessive, nigh on aggressive efforts. But certainly a figure with a great amount of secrecy surrounding him. Until today.

Enter Tony Zierra, the documentarian behind Filmworker, a film that tracks Kubrick’s creative development from the classically ambitious Barry Lyndon to the unsettling eroticism of Eyes Wide Shut. With this, Zierra fleshes out the Kubrickian experience to a surprising extent, but from a perspective that has, until now, remained in the shadow of the controversial master: Leon Vitali, Kubrick’s assistant and long-term admirer.

Joining Kubrick on Barry Lyndon, Vitali slowly begins to reveal a respectful, almost brotherly bond between himself and Kubrick within interviews over the course of Zierra’s film, as Vitali begins to divulge all the nuances of the Kubrick film set: just what it meant to work under Kubrick, to feel the strain of his infamous attention to detail, to produce blood, sweat and tears just to capture the perfect shot. For all of the stories told about Shelly Duvall’s psychological torment on the set of The Shining, or Kubrick’s wearing methods in forcing actors to perform in a certain way on Dr Strangelove and Paths of Glory, Filmworker relishes in a newfound honesty from a man, Vitali, who harbours a deep respect for another man considered by many to be as controversial as the great Hitchcock himself.

For film buffs, Filmworker is a delight, as Zierra traces the production history of genre classics such as The Shining and Full Metal Jacket. Anyone interested in the creation of these films will find ample nourishment to consume here, as the likes of Vitali, Matthew Modine (Private Joker in Full Metal Jacket) and Danny Lloyd (Danny Torrance in The Shining) dictate little details about the way in which Kubrick handled child actors and spent sleepless hours thinking of the exact image he needed for the day. It’s a take on a filmmaker that we’d no doubt expect considering all of the stigma surrounding him, but is fascinating all the same.

It must be said that Zierra doesn’t take any risks with his formatting here: Filmworker is, through and through, a strict piece of storytelling. Interweaving interviews with images and stock footage, Zierra does a good job of keeping us interested in hearing about Vitali’s private struggles and joys when dealing with the man himself. But there was an opportunity to do something a little different here, in honour of a filmmaker known for taking as many risks.

Nevertheless, Filmworker offers an effective insight into the Kubrickian production process, through the eyes of a man left unnoticed for too long. Responsible for many a reprint of Kubrick’s masterful works, Vitali is clearly infatuated with the Kubrickian style, indebted to bringing Kubrick’s visions to every new generation that has yet to discover his delirious genius. Zierra himself, however, takes the bold move to indebt a film to this dedicated disciple. Despite the attention-grabbing Kubrick, Filmworker is Vitali’s film: a love letter to a loving fan who, in spite of any adversities, was determined to see Kubrick through all his artistic difficulties, for the sake of another filmmaking gift from one of history’s greatest directors.

Dir: Tony Zierra

Prd: Elizabeth Yoffe, Tony Zierra

DOP: Tony Zierra

Editor: Tony Zierra

Filmworker is set to be released on DVD on the 23rd July and is available on Digital now.