By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel
Color Me Kubrick: A True…ish Story is a truly delicious and colorful odyssey. John Malkovich stars as the real-life “Alan Conway” – a man who gained fleeting satisfaction by periodically venturing out and featuring himself as the not so-easily-recognized and socially reclusive film director, the great Stanley Kubrick.
COLOR ME KUBRICK
The screenplay by Andrew Frewin (assistant to Mr. Kubrick for the films Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, and 2001: A Space Odyssey) is perfection. With clockwork timing and an acidic sense of humor, Andrew Frewin has fashioned an irresistible cruise, a mythical rendezvous – a “true…ish” voyage – that carousels through, around, and upside-down the virtual realities of an eccentric individual who mirrors achievement, teems with panache, and swindles the unwary. Enter British comedian Jim Davidson as “Lee Pratt” – the quintessential Pop Idol pretender – the wealthy lounge lizard. Conway promises Pratt the grandest of Las Vegas showrooms. All Pratt has to do is pony-up the funds. Done! Pratt (a fantastic blending of William Shatner, Merv Griffin and Liberace) has his own retinue of luxury-accustomed sycophants. Unfortunately, following a casino’s worth of fine binging and boozing, one of them suggests to “Stanley” that he demonstrate his sense of good taste by picking up the tab. Conway pratfalls.
JIM DAVIDSON and JOHN MALKOVICH – dreaming Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Hand-in-glove with Conway’s basic need to be something larger than his actual parts, is the weightiness of going out in style – everyday – for free … up to and including his final breath. Mission accomplished. [The Management requests that you not reveal the ending.] But to achieve that, Conway must be enabled by the bedazzled wannabe, the mid-level achiever who perceives him as the real Stanley Kubrick. Once ensnared – voila! – the pants are off, the wallets and vodka bottles emptied, and private jets fueled. After all, “It’s Stanley f-ing Kubrick!” Fame, at last, is staring them in the face. (Or was it Stanley Kramer?) Hornswoggled, wooed and spewed – each of the participants (and everyone in the audience) is lifted into the winds of Do Not Pass Go and pushed to the Final Degree of Separation between fulfillment and failure. One pair of onlookers, however, knows a fifth-rate vaudevillian when they see one. Leave it to New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich and his wife Alix (fleshed-out by William Hootkins and Marisa Berenson) and their deftness with a borrower’s card to the New York Public Library.
WILLIAM HOOTKINS and MARISA BERENSON – portray Frank and Alix Rich
The partnering of Mr. Malkovich’s prodigious theatrical instincts with the wide and watchful eyes of director John W. Cook (assistant to Kubrick in Eyes Wide Shut and Barry Lyndon), drive Anthony Frewin’s imaginative tale straight to the winner’s circle. John Malkovich turns in a shining performance, perhaps the most ingratiating role of his multi-faceted career. As “Alan Conway” Malkovich is erotic, appetizing, repulsive, worldly-wise, moronic, romantic, pedantic, pathetic, cruel, cogent, conceited, copious and captivating. Frewin’s script is eerily Kubrick…ish. The energies and personae of the famed director’s leading men are imbued in his fashioning of “Alan Conway”. Dashing through a precarious maze of fleeting realities and sporting an endless supply of fantasy wardrobe (costumes by Victoria Russell), Malkovich reflects the perversity of Malcolm McDowell (“Alex de Large”, A Clockwork Orange), the concentration of Jack Nicholson (“Jack”, The Shining), the parlor foppery of Ryan O’Neal (Barry Lyndon), the probing wariness of “Hal 9000″ (2001), and the lilting steps of Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove).
JOHN MALKOVICH – as the imposter Alan Conway. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Likewise, the Kubrick touch on the soundtrack – the memorable snippets from the Overtures to “The Barber of Seville” and “William Tell” (A Clockwork Orange), the humor and nostalgia of Johann Strauss’ “Blue Danube Waltz” (2001), and the elegant voice of Ray Bowley with Ray Noble and His New Mayfair Dance Orchestra in the haunting melody, “Midnight, The Stars and You” (The Shining). Rounding out the psychological underpinnings are songs by Bryan Adams. Especially memorable, “I’m Not The Man You Think I Am” (available on his CD, ANTHOLOGY – Bryan Adams).
John Malkovich is an actor’s actor – but for many a viewer, an acquired taste. Color Me Kubrick represents the role of a lifetime. As written, the role of “Alan Conway” offers the last nth of a degree between what an actor knows he can do and being lauded in the theatre for doing it. Some argue that such an opportunity came about for Laurence Olivier as “Archie Rice” in The Entertainer. John Malkovich and “Alan Conway” have arrived together, tastefully, and on time. The partnership and co-operation between Frewin the writer, Malkovich the actor, and Cook the director has produced a stunning homage to Stanley Kubrick and a befitting affirmation to the director’s vision and sense of style. Twinkling in the indirect glow of this projected light, the eyes of Alan Conway.
D’ya see, Alan? Right there – on the screen, in the same paragraph? You made it.
Color Me Kubrick: A True…ish Story – playing now at:
1572 California Street
Show times: 2:00 pm, 4:45 pm, 7:00 pm, 9:15 pm
Running time: 1 hr. 27 min.
MPAA Rating: (NR)
San Francisco Sentinel’s Fine Arts Critic Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Ask him a question on AllExperts.com . If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.