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Thread: FILMWORKER (2017)

  1. #1
    Senior Member Mark Tolch's Avatar
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    FILMWORKER (2017)

    This was a surprisingly enjoyable documentary I caught on Netflix, about former actor Leon Vitali, who dropped his entire career and dedicated his life to working with Stanley Kubrick after appearing in BARRY LYNDON. Vitali is an engaging enough subject, and while I originally thought that the film was just going to be another of those, "I worked with such-and-such, here are some stories", Vitali has had enough experiences in the industry for his story to wander it's own road, occasionally crossing paths with Kubrick's during the running time.

    If you're even remotely interested in Kubrick, or what the workload is like being a jack of all trades assistant to a filmmaker who had some very quirky ways of doing business, I highly recommend it.

  2. #2
    Unfortunately this isn't on UK Netflix. Anyone who threw tennis balls at R Lee Ermey to get him to learn his lines has to have had balls of steel.
    I'm bitter, I'm twisted, James Joyce is fucking my sister.

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    Senior Member Mark Tolch's Avatar
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    Ah, gotcha. Sorry, I just assume when something is on Netflix Canada, it's on Netflix everywhere. One of the oddest interviews is when they talk to the guy who was supposed to be Gunnery Sargent Hartman, but got bounced out by Ermey and given the role of the door gunner (Anyone who doesn't run is a well-disciplined VC)....dude is just crushed that he lost the role.

  4. #4
    It's a great cameo though. I can't imagine anyone else in Ermey's role, the movie wouldn't be half as effective.
    I'm bitter, I'm twisted, James Joyce is fucking my sister.

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    Spoon! Dom D's Avatar
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    Not on netflix down here either. It is however on piratebay. Thanks for the heads up.
    "Never let the fact that they are doing it wrong stop you from doing it right." Hyman Mandell.

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    Senior Member Mark Tolch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by agent999 View Post
    It's a great cameo though. I can't imagine anyone else in Ermey's role, the movie wouldn't be half as effective.
    Guaranteed. I saw it on video when it came out...think I was about 12....and Ermey was terrifying.

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    Senior Member The Silly Swede's Avatar
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    Quite interesting documentary. I saw it when it was on one of our public service channel here a year or so ago.

    I can't help but feel this poor Vitali guy was suffering from some kind of Stockholm Syndrome for all these years.
    "No presh from the Dresh!"

  8. #8
    Senior Member Mark Tolch's Avatar
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    He definitely went well beyond the call of duty.

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    Spoon! Dom D's Avatar
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    Funny I've never heard of the guy before, beyond watching him in Barry Lyndon. Thing is you kind of expect a guy like Kubrick to have such an assistant but the thing that makes him unique is that he had other, seemingly much better, options in the industry. Actually, except to become directors or producers I can't think of any actors who made moves behind the camera and I've never met one who had any interest in what went on back there.

    Its a fun doco. Any insight on Kubrick is always welcome but to get a second weirdo to be entertained by in the one documentary is a plus. A while back I read a book about Kubrick written by Michael Herr (Full Metal Jacket) that was the most informative and insightful thing I've come across on the man behind the movies but this makes for some good filler.

  10. #10
    Stanley Kubrick was known as one of the most fanatically detailed Directors in cinema. But, even the most detailed of filmmakers could not possibly attend to each and every facet of the process. It required many co-workers. One of those collaborators was Leon Vitali. But, Vitali wasn't just an assistant, he literally became Kubrick's jack of all trades for much of the last quarter century of his life. One of the ironies is that Kubrick was so picky with his projects that he completed only three films (THE SHINING, FULL METAL JACKET and EYES WIDE SHUT) from the time that Vitali became his assistant to his death (and even then, post-production had to completed on EYES posthumously).
    FILMWORKER is Director Tony Zierra's effective, and sometimes confounding, portrait of Vitali. Vitali first became enthralled by Kubrick when he went to see 2001 as a young man. By the time that CLOCKWORK ORANGE came out, Vitali had begun a career as an actor, largely on British television. His fascination with Kubrick continued so the opportunity to score even a small role in Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON was literally the chance of a lifetime. As fate would have it, Kubrick took a liking to Vitali's performance as Lord Bullingdon and re-wrote the script in order to increase the part. This gave Vitali an opportunity to not only observe the Director at work, but, to put a bug in his ear that he might like to work for him on his future films. That opportunity came with work with THE SHINING.
    What follows is a fascinating portrait of Kubrick as a combination of kindly Maestro and toxic Vampire. He could cajole Vitali and the cast and crew of a picture on one hand, and, then demand effort (and frankly, ability) above and beyond on the other. Not just Vitali, but others describe how exhausting Kubrick's demands were (more than one person is mentioned as having a form of a nervous breakdown on his sets!). Through it all, Vitali's importance to Kubrick grew and grew. From being a fairly defined purely Director's Assistant on THE SHINING to what would become an all-consuming full-time job as his boss' virtual alter-ego (Kubrick would even sign Vitali's name on some of his missives).
    Director Zierra's documentary is densely packed for it's 94 minutes. A good assortment of clips illustrate both Kubrick's films, but, also Vitali's early career as an actor. Plus, there's a smattering of behind the scenes footage. Most of it is well chosen, even if, occasionally, they became the equivalent of visual wallpaper in order to have stuff to cut away from the talking heads. Vitali is the main interviewee, but, we also get other Kubrick collaborators both in front of, and behind the camera, and extending to techs in charge of post-production, distribution and home video. Zierra managed to get lead actor Ryan O'Neil to speak about BARRY LYNDON, but, was unable to secure Jack Nicholson or Shelly Duvall from THE SHINING (Danny Lloyd, who was all of 6, represents). Disappointingly, neither Tom Cruise nor Nicole Kidman co-operated either (17th billed Marie Richardson is the lone cast member other than Vitali). Matthew Modine and the late R. Lee Ermey (who's death came after FILMWORKER was completed) speak about FULL METAL JACKET. The interviews are informative and well-edited (Although it must be noted that Kubrick himself would have been aghast at the chalky HD camera-work in them! In one amusing scene we see Kubrick 'direct' a brief video-taped acceptance speech that Vitali recorded. Yes, he was THAT detail oriented).
    What emerges is a compelling portrait of one artist (Vitali) essentially giving his life over to facilitate another's (Kubrick). As mentioned, Kubrick only made three movies during the nearly 25 year tenure of Vitali as his assistant. What was he doing in between films? FILMWORKER shows that Kubrick's attention to minutiae extended to attending to each and every painstaking detail of how his completed films were preserved, distributed and promoted. Kubrick would cut special trailers for each major country his films got released in (sometimes differing by only a frame or two). We see Vitali standing in pile after pile of boxes full of old files, VHS tapes, clippings etc.. It became, by his account, a 24-7 position (including holidays) -- even during the 'off' years between films (a full dozen between JACKET and EYES alone).
    Zierra thoughtfully dedicates his Doc to all 'Filmworkers' - not just Vitali, but, one can't help but feel he never quite addresses the elephant in the room - why did Vitali give up a promising career as an actor to become a glorified gofer? Other than his professional work, we are given precious little insight to Vitali, the man. We see his three children briefly interviewed, but, his wives (supposedly three) aren't discussed. Perhaps appropriately, the only old footage we see of his kids is with Vitali steeped in work with the children playing in those boxes of Kubrick world. Vitali addresses the camera directly and says it was all worth it, but you can't help but wonder. Yes, it was all done voluntarily, but, at a certain point one has to ask if it wasn't some deranged form of Stockholm Syndrome. While Vitali may never have become a great actor, his resume was adding up. You would think he had some creative bones still in him, that, at some juncture he would have asked Kubrick for a more creative role (or, to even strike out on his own). It's somewhat consoling that Vitali feels he played a role in a great filmmaker's oeuvre, but, one can't escape a mild feeling of depression slipping in. The thought of the dozen years between METAL and EYES being taken up not by artistic input, but instead slaving over the box art for the Japanese VHS tape of 2001 or re-re-re-cutting a trailer for the French re-release of THE SHINING does cast a pall on FILMWORKER.
    Zierra has made a fine documentary. The fact that not every question is answered may be unknowable. Just like Kubrick. And, just like Vitali, perhaps.

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