- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007

“Color Me Kubrick” is a delicious romp of a film, as outrageous as the man whose life it re-creates.

Alan Conway (John Malkovich) was an out-of-work London travel agent who impersonated Stanley Kubrick while the legendary director was working on his 1999 film “Eyes Wide Shut.” His con jobs were unlikely successes. Mr. Kubrick was American; Mr. Conway was British. Mr. Kubrick had a beard; Mr. Conway didn’t. Mr. Kubrick was happily married to his third wife; Mr. Conway left his first for another man.

“Color Me Kubrick,” subtitled “A True…ish Story,” is mainly a series of vignettes, revealing how Mr. Conway’s cons became more and more audacious.

First, the slightly schlubby guy is posing as the director of “Dr. Strangelove ” and “Full Metal Jacket” to pick up men in bars. Soon, he’s enjoying the generous hospitality — including a luxury hotel suite and frequent spa trips — of a Tom Jones-like singer whom he promises to make a Las Vegas star.

Mr. Conway, who has little more than a passing familiarity with the master’s films, succeeded for so long in part because Mr. Kubrick was a famous recluse. Few people even knew what he looked like. But though it’s not mentioned in the film, Mr. Conway also fooled a Hollywood producer who had actually met the director. There was likely more than a little wishful thinking on the part of his victims. It might be why no one who discovered the truth wanted to go public by pressing charges.

Mr. Malkovich, after an accomplished mainstream career (“Dangerous Liaisons,” “Places in the Heart”) now seems game for anything. He played himself in Spike Jonze’s 1999 film, “Being John Malkovich,” in which a puppeteer discovers a portal into the actor’s head. He’s just as playful here.

Mr. Conway develops a different persona depending on whom he’s trying to fool. He’s chichi for a young homosexual fashion designer, a blustery all-American for that lounge singer (the controversial English comedian Jim Davidson, an inspired choice). Mr. Malkovich, of course, can do it all.

He’s helped by Victoria Russell’s outrageous costumes and a fine supporting cast. The great physical actor Richard E. Grant (“Withnail & I”) is suitably grovelling and then despairing as the proprietor of Mr. Conway’s favorite watering hole who is destroyed by his faith in the con man.

Director Brian W. Cook was first assistant director and co-producer on “Eyes Wide Shut” and assistant director on “The Shining” and “Barry Lyndon.” Writer Anthony Frewin was a longtime assistant to Mr. Kubrick, beginning with “2001.” Kubrick fans will enjoy the sly references with which they’ve seeded their film. For example, Mr. Conway, in sweat pants, walks to the Laundromat to Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” famously used in “2001.”

Marisa Berenson, who played Lady Lyndon in “Barry Lyndon,” here plays Alix Rich, wife — or some nominally fictionalized version thereof — of New York Times theater critic Frank Rich (William Hootkins), who helps uncover Mr. Conway’s deception. The con man finally has to admit, “I’m not Stanley Kubrick, I’m Alan Conway, one of life’s great failures.” But he failed spectacularly, and it’s been captured spectacularly in this witty, offbeat film.

***

TITLE: “Color Me Kubrick”

RATING: Not rated (adult themes, some language)

CREDITS: Directed by Brian W. Cook. Written by Anthony Frewin.

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes

WEB SITE: www.colourme kubrick.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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