Between 1998 and 1999, while director Stanley Kubrick was filming the extramarital thriller Eyes Wide Shut in London, a con man named Alan Conway dashed around town impersonating the director, grifting free meals and, according to the partly factual Color Me Kubrick, silver-tonguing his way into the beds of several gay Brits.
Written by Anthony Frewin (Kubrick's personal assistant since 1965) and directed by Brian Cook (Kubrick's former assistant director), Color Me Kubrick combines elements of con-man/identity cinema such as Six Degrees of Separation with other dramas of common folk masquerading as their social betters (including Kubrick's own Barry Lyndon). Though it tends to peter out after establishing the novelty of Conway's impersonation, Color Me Kubrick is not without its wacky charms principally driven by John Malkovich's contortions as Conway.
An actor clearly obsessed in his own self-referential way with the nature of stardom and performance – as he showed in Color Me Kubrick – Malkovich proves the greatest asset to Cook's oddball little film. His Alan Conway-as-Stanley Kubrick is a gassy, hysterical mess whose demeanor goes off the deep end as his ruse escalates. With his accent alternating between Dixie cornpone, pretentious Madonna Brit-speak and Bronx yammer, Malkovich impersonates the impersonator as a kind of campy, histrionic Jack Smith-meets-Charles Nelson Reilly – able to con the highbrows as easily as the low. Conway seduces marks ranging from budding gay fashion designers and heavy-metal musicians to New York Times drama critic Frank Rich and a quivering-with-excitement restaurateur (Richard E. Grant).
The film tips its hat to not only a freak experience in Kubrick's life but also Kubrick's own visual style. It's evident in everything from a scene in which Conway is thrown in slo-mo into the sea à la A Clockwork Orange to the casting of Barry Lyndon star Marisa Berenson as Frank Rich's wife to musical nods to Kubrick's film score repertoire.
Though Conway is outed on several occasions for having insufficient knowledge of Kubrick's oeuvre, Color Me Kubrick expresses a fan's devotion.
Color Me Kubrick. 3 stars. Directed by Brian Cook. Stars John Malkovich, Richard E. Grant, Marisa Berenson. Not rated. Opens Fri., March 23. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.