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Impersonating genius for gain

  • 26 June 2006

Colour Me Kubrick. Director: Brian Cook. Starring: John Malkovich, Richard E. Grant, Marisa Berenson and Jim Davidson. Running Time: 86 minutes.

Colour Me Kubrick is not quite a work of satirical genius,  but it is a very satisfying film. For all of its polish and craft, it lacks a certain something; a quality that could have raised it from being a good film, and up to the level of a great film.

Allan Conway, played by John Malkovich, is a conman in London. He seduces his gullible prey by impersonating famed (and now sadly departed) American auteur Stanley Kubrick. By this false pretense, and freely distributed promises of soon to be attained fame, Conway is able to drink, live and holiday for free. Based on a true life story, the film is set in the mid-nineties. It presages the growing mania for celebrity, and also demonstrates how easily people’s hopes and dreams can be used against them.

Director Brian Cook, formerly a first assistant director for Kubrick, sprinkles the film liberally with references to the dead director. Actors, locations, and especially the musical score all recall the him.

The film opens with two rough-looking, bowler hat-wearing men walking down a street. They are looking for the false Kubrick’s address. Cook’s use of  ‘The Thieving Magpie’ by Rossini heightens the comedy of the scene. They knock on the door of a fine looking English home, only to be confronted by an elderly gentleman who has never heard of Kubrick. The scene recalls Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, but unlike in that film, the elderly man does not get hurt.

John Malkovich stands out from the rest of the cast as Conway, an openly gay middle aged man who neither resembles nor sounds like Stanley Kubrick. Malkovich is mischievous and adventurous in his playing of the role of a man whose chief goal is to keep himself happily intoxicated. The other performances are serviceable but not outstanding. The cast clearly enjoyed themselves, and their enjoyment is reflected on the screen in their energetic performances. 

The film comments pointedly on ‘modern society’ at times, without becoming sanctimonious. This man can go a long way by dropping names or taking on a fancy job title such as ‘film director’.  And in doing so, he becomes slightly ridiculous. By name-dropping, and false praise, Conway abuses his victims’ confidences – but do we really feel sorry for them? Generally his