In the year of the pious and hyper-masculine gay cowboys, it was great to see good old-fashioned effete, wicked old queens holding court at the art house. First was Capote, an excellent film about the grand old Manhattan lit-fag who was happy to bluff a couple of dopey Midwestern blue-collars to the gallows just so he could write a career-making book about them. Now, there’s Colour Me Kubrick, a so-called ‘true-ish’ account of Alan Conway, a Londoner who tricked many an aspiring actor out of their underpants and credit card accounts by convincing them that he was Stanley Kubrick, and that he may have a role for them in his new film.
Born Eddie Alan Jablowsky in Whitechapel in 1943, the young Conway claimed to be a Polish Jew who’d escaped the Nazis. In jail for theft by age 13, he later established a travel agency in London with his wife after leaving South Africa under a cloud of investigations for fraud. In the early Eighties, Conway left his wife for another man but the travel agency soon went under, his lover died of AIDS, and somewhere around this time ‘Stanley Kubrick’ emerged.
Innumerable actors and screenwriters on the make had their first and possibly only gay sexual experiences with Conway, who would always assure them that ‘the Studio’ would reimburse them for expensive restaurant and nightclub tabs they had to pick up after Conway had suddenly realised he’d forgotten or mislaid his credit card.
Apparently, Conway once had dinner at a top club with a table full of in-the-know Hollywood types, including the New York Times’ theatre critic Frank Rich, all of whom revelled in sharing a meal with someone they truly believed was the legendary director. As Kubrick, Conway had a gold pass into every hot spot in town for a few years in the early Nineties and was found everywhere from backstage at the theatre telling Julie Walters he wanted her for his new movie to forming fast friendships with former Tory MP Sir Fergus Montgomery and club singer Joe Longthorne.
When found out and publicly exposed, Conway cheerfully detailed his exploits on a TV show called “The Lying Game”. The real Kubrick was told about Conway and was apparently fascinated, and not all offended by the story. Conway died in 1998, just a few months before Kubrick did.
Screenwriter Anthony Prewin (Stanley Kubrick’s personal assistant on Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey) peppers Colour Me Kubrick with witticisms and a general sense of camp grandeur, but he neglected to put a spark plug in the story engine and the film just lacks momentum.
The mobius-strip background details to Colour Me Kubrick are far more interesting than the film itself, which really seems to be not a lot more than an in-joke project by a couple of Kubrick ex-employees that features a great lead performance.
Unfortunately for Malkovich, and as usual for the actor who only leads in mixed-bag art-house affairs that hardly anyone goes to see (Shadow of the Vampire, The Portrait of A Lady and Mary Reilly) his fabulous circus master performance here may also drift quietly away. For some reason, he jumps readily into key supporting roles as killer psychos in action blockbusters like In The Line of Fire and Con Air.
I guess being John Malkovich involves throwing your all into intricate performances in peripheral quality films while tossing off evil-madman cameos into Hollywood blockbusters - what a cleverly wicked joke.
COLOUR ME KUBRICK
Director: Brian Cook
Stars: John Malkovich
Available on DVD - order here