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United Kingdom/France 2005
Directed by
Brian Cook
86 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Colour Me Kubrick

Synopsis: In London in the early 1990’s Alan Conway (John Malkovich) conned dozens of gullible people, mostly gay and none too bright, into believing that he was the famous film director, Stanley Kubrick.

This fact-based story with its fascination with small-time crooks, seaside holiday resorts and grotesque English seediness is in many ways a descendant of the Ealing school of mordant comedy, 1955's The Ladykillers for example. Its charm, which understandably will not appeal to all, and particularly not to lovers of broad American humour, is in its mix of pathos and cynicism. The repugnantly tacky and, one suspects, none too clean Alan Conway is in this respect the paradigmatic protagonist of such fare and had this film been made 50 years ago the role would have been played by Alistair Sim or Alec Guiness. But it wasn’t and now it’s John Malkovich who gets to embody the sad, floridly foppish vodka lush who preys upon his witless victims with apparently remarkable ease.

This is the directorial debut for Brian Cook, who was (the real) Stanley Kubrick’s 1st A.D. on Eyes Wide Shut. He knows the master’s films well and part of the fun of this modestly entertaining little bauble are the many references to them. particularly musical. The other main element of appeal, at least for fans of the actor, is Malkovich’s performance. Looking like a much taller version of Joel Grey in Cabaret, he slurs, pouts, hisses and lisps his mannered way through a variety of accents and poses as his character desperately tries to convince himself as much as his victims that he is not the drab little nobody he really is. Some of the support players, notably Jim Davidson as the tacky and terribly gay entertainer Lee Pratt, are equally outrageous and the whole affair is a tongue-in-cheek delight that comes close to, but stops just short of, the truly camp.

This is an often droll film, well-scripted by Anthony Frewin, who was Kubrick's research assistant and who had been asked by the director to put together a dossier on Conway, thus providing the genesis for this offbeat career footnote.  It mercifully does not try give any explanation of Conway’s behaviour or even attempt a properly rounded account of him and is certainly not in the league of films dealing with real life odd-balls, such as Milos Forman’s Man On The Moon (just as Alan Conway was not in the same league as Andy Kaufman), but if you have an appetite for eccentricity and are looking for some lightly twisted diversion, this should please.




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