It may not be fair to call Tony Zierra’s Filmworker the movie Michael Almereyda’s recent Escapes wanted to be, but among documentaries about actors who gave up their onscreen careers to work behind the camera, Filmworker is thankfully closer to the subgenre’s gold standard, The Kid Stays in the Picture. Leon Vitali was a successful London actor who was so taken with acting in Stanley Kubrick’s little-loved Barry Lyndon that he devoted the rest of his life to being Kubrick’s Man Friday. Vitali soon became one of the few people Kubrick implicitly trusted and continued to act in his stead after Kubrick’s 1999 death.
Filmworker wisely doesn’t get into Vitali’s youth until its third act, and Vitali would be the first to admit that his own life was the least interesting thing about him. We’re in it for the Kubrick tidbits, and on par with Liv & Ingmar’s revelation that the director of Persona and The Seventh Seal owned a teddy bear is the fact that not only was Kubrick a big cat person — which, right there, wow — but Kubrick asked Vitali to design and build a cat compound. That Kubrick was a mercurial asshole is well-documented, but he also loved his kitties! Through Filmworker Vitali, we learn Kubrick was human after all.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.