J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

S is for Stanley: With Kubrick

Emilio D’Alessandro’s tenure with Stanley Kubrick started just as Clockwork Orange was wrapping and ended just as Eyes Wide Shut was ramping up. However, if Kubrick ever explained to his long-time assistant how he faked the Moon-landing or conceived The Shining as an allegory of the Native American genocide, D’Alessandro will not betray the confidence. Thanks to Room 237 and general conspiracy theory crackpottery, fascination with Kubrick remains high as ever. However, it will be more grounded cineastes who appreciate Alex Infascelli’s S is for Stanley (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York, as part of the IFC Center’s Kubrick retrospective.

D’Alessandro’s great ambition was to be a Formula One driver, but to pay the bills, the Italian expat gigged as a hack driver. When D’Alessandro successfully ferried a large, embarrassing prop for Clockwork over the treacherous blizzard-iced roads of London, Kubrick recognized the sort of work ethic he needed in his assistant. Initially, D’Alessandro was hired as a driver, but he quickly became responsible pretty much everything around the house (that would be Childwickbury Manor) and miscellaneous gofer work on his films.

Somehow, hundreds of the hand-written (and sometimes typed) notes Kubrick left D’Alessandro around Childwickbury survive for posterity. Individually, they are often comically absurd, but collectively they suggest Kubrick was practically helpless, but also problematically manipulative. (Yes, most were simply signed “S”). Yet, we also clearly get a sense of the affection auteur and assistant shared for each other.

In fact, the portrait of Kubrick that emerges through D’Alessandro’s reminiscences feels entirely fair and balanced. We get a real sense of Kubrick as an individual, as well as his idiosyncrasies. Still, fans will probably be disappointed D’Alessandro does not provide more insights into Kubrick’s films. For the record, he probably offers up the best behind-the-scenes stuff on The Shining.

Still, this is definitely a side of Kubrick most fans have never seen. It also explores that very Hollywood relationship of talent and assistant that remains foreign to most of us yokels, aside from what we might have seen in the infinitely more dysfunctional Clouds of Sils Maria. Recommended for ardent Kubrick admirers, S is for Stanley opens this Friday (1/27) in New York, at the IFC Center.

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