- Review by Amanda Harvey
Tony Zierra’s Filmworker tracks Leon Vitali’s sacrificed life with an empathetic eye, searching for some great reason for his dedication to Stanley Kubrick. The film’s perplexed puzzlement is presented through Vitali’s oration of his memories, mixed with interviews from different actors, producers, executives, and a collection of pictures from Kubrick’s sets. Even when Kubrick is gone, Vitali is only a collection of artefacts left by the director.
The film starts off regaling the promising acting career of Vitali. After working with Kubrick, however, Vitali chooses to change his place in the film world as he begins to work behind the camera. It seems though he was adamantly eager about his new role, others - often the familiar faces of actors - are confused by his sudden flip of the script.
One of the very troubling insights is the way Vitali talks about Kubrick as if the director was God. The ties between Kubrick and Vitalis start with Vitali’s ambition to work with the director after seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey. To Vitali, Kubrick got what cinema could accomplish and wanted a chance.
Vitali speaks of his first interaction with Kubrick with fondness and joy. Vitali, after getting the chance to audition for Kubrick, was told to learn the entire script for Barry Lyndon - as Vitali states: when Kubrick asked you to do something you just did it, no questions asked. The demand to perform from Kubrick matched Vitali’s drive to live up to Kubrick’s expectations, and it earned Vitali a huge part in the film. Vitali even goes as far as to say that Kubrick enhanced the role because he was impressed by Vitali. However, the film does suggest that there are terrible truths behind the idealized perfection achieved through Kubrick’s painstakingly detail-orientated film practices.
The height of Vitali’s ecstasy represents how ambition leads to success, but this success is instantly soured by the question of what Vitali is able to claim as his own. As he rummages around his attic there are more signs of Kubrick’s legacy rather than Vitali’s. The countless notebooks, piles of paperwork, and gifts from Kubrick are preserved in place of Vitali’s life. Vitali’s frail frame preserves his lively personality though, proving that the detriments of time do not affect all.
The most touching aspect of Vitali is his ability to give his time to those who want to learn about Kubrick; however, his children have felt displaced by their father’s close kinship with the director. Nonetheless, Vitali is an interesting character with wispy, thinning hair, covered always by a bandana. His manners are loving, careful, and meticulous. His eye for detail has not aged with the rest of him, and as he sorts through the remnants of his lived life, he realises that he has no artistic outlet anymore as all his work for Kubrick has finally come to an unacknowledged end. Vitali is ultimately living in the shadow of a dead man, who allowed him to become the filmworker.