Leon Vitali played the repugnant Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon and went on to become Stanley Kubrick’s trusted right hand man for nearly 25 years.
The jack-of-all-trades was instrumental in helping the director bring The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut to fruition, was involved in anything and everything Kubrick-related in the interim, and remains the authority on his late friend’s films and the ultimate consultant for getting proper versions out into the world.
Tony Zierra’s documentary Filmworker chronicles Vitali’s fascinating history in thoroughly entertaining and informative fashion and weaves in a wealth of clips from Kubrick’s films to electrifying degrees.
It’s fairly standard non-fiction filmmaking, however, and several interviews confoundedly allow natural light to shine in too brightly from behind the current subject. Nonetheless, chats with Lyndon co-star Ryan O’Neal and actors whose performances Vitali helped shepherd to greatness — including The Shining’s Danny Lloyd and Full Metal Jacket’s R. Lee Ermey — illuminate the crucial role he had in shaping aspects of Kubrick’s later films.
Also somewhat wonky is the shoehorning in of potential explanations for why Vitali put up with unreasonable requests from a great man, though the storytelling flow up to that point is so fluid that an interruption would have been most unwelcome.
With Christopher Nolan’s recent “unrestored” 70mm, 50th anniversary print of 2001: A Space Odyssey — color-timed by Vitali — playing at the Cannes Film Festival and major U.S. cities, it’s a terrific time to experience the extraordinary, rarely-recognized man who keeps Kubrick’s legacy intact.
Grade: A-minus. Not rated, but with adult language and themes. Plays June 5 at 7 p.m. at Grail Moviehouse.
(Photo: Kino Lorber)