Color Me Kubrick: A True…ish Story
March 23, 2007
Based loosely on an actual scam perpetuated by a man named Alan Conway, who passed himself off as filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, Color Me Kubrick (2005) is a cheeky farce that attempts to address the nature of fame a la King of Comedy (1983) – just not as good. This film certainly adheres to the classic saying that the bigger the lie the more people will believe it.
Alan Conway (Malkovich) is a con artist who assumes the identity of the legendary film director in order to pick up men, mooch money and enjoy complimentary service at hotels and bars. The film is comprised of a series of these little scams – including picking up a man at a pub with the promise of a role in his “next film” about a male model who stumbles across a murder. Later, he meets a musician in a heavy metal band and promises to “discover” them while claiming to be working on a science fiction film called All Night Prescriptions.
Conway capitalizes on the notion that most people knew who Kubrick was but not necessarily what he looked like. The man was notoriously camera-shy and did very few interviews during his life. Because of this, Conway doesn’t need to offer much information, instead relying on people’s own pre-conceived notions. However, most of these people seem to lack basic common sense. After all, would Kubrick really go slumming at a heavy metal gig or at a gay club? Like any decent con artist, Conway gains his mark’s confidence by dazzling them with the Kubrick moniker and then hits them up for cash only to split before they get wise to his ruse.
John Malkovich portrays Conway as a fey cross-dresser who speaks in deliberately slow and exactly sentences or in various accents (depending on the intended target) as one can only imagine he thinks someone like Kubrick might speak. Except that anyone who knows anything about the filmmaker knows that he speaks with a New York accent, hailing as he does from Brooklyn. This minor yet crucial detail only illustrates just how little Conway actually knew about Kubrick and how gullible people are when they encounter someone they think is famous. Malkovich seems to be having a lot of fun with the role as it allows him to act and dress outrageously. He isn’t afraid to look ridiculous. Sadly, it is something of a one-note performance that is hammered on again and again. Malkovich does little to get past the gay stereotype and show what motivated this man to do what he did. And herein lies the fatal flaw of this movie.
Naturally, the film adopts many Kubrickian stylistic flourishes, most notably utilizing several distinctive classical music cues from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980) and others. Certain iconic shots from his movies are also recreated but in a tongue-in-cheek fashion befitting the satirical tone of this movie. And yet, like King of Comedy, at the center lies a rather pathetic protagonist. Conway poses as Kubrick because he sees himself as a failure and he would rather assume the persona of a successful person. Conway wants to “escape himself” as he puts it at one point. The film seems to suggest that he can’t stand his true self and so he pretends to be someone else.