The film is loosely based on real life hustler Alan Conway, a sociopathic alcoholic con man who posed as director Stanley Kubrick around London during the early ’90s. What made Conway’s ability to continually get away with the ruse all the more remarkable is not only did he know very little about Kubrick, he didn’t resemble him at all. Kubrick was American while Conway was English. Kubrick had a beard while Conway was clean-shaven. Kubrick was married while Conway was gay.
What Conway had in his favor was Kubrick shunned the trappings of fame and celebrity attached to filmmaking, so while many may have known the names of his films, very few people knew much about the man. According to the media, Kubrick was a genius and a recluse. For him to come out of hiding and open up to a stranger surely implied said person was special because surely Kubrick wouldn’t open up to just anyone. It would be like meeting J.D. Salinger.
Conway was a very interesting con man because rather than the usual big scores that take place in films he was only after, and successfully acquired, the little niceties of life: cigarettes, vodka, and the seduction of men. Color Me Kubrick shows Conway was very good at telling people what they wanted to hear: showering them with praise and the potential of great opportunities. They very much wanted to believe him and the wishes he says he can grant. And it wasn’t just the common folk. He even fooled New York Times writer Frank Rich and a British comedian who thought he was headed for Las Vegas to become an international star.
While John Malkovich gives a great performance in the lead role and Kubrick fans will enjoy the many allusions to Kubrick and his films, the repetition of the plot makes the film a disappointment. Conway is constantly revealed as a fraud, but that life is all he knows so he continues the charade with new marks. The ruses get slightly bigger but his goals remain the same. There are never any serious consequences to his actions, so the resolutions of the conflicts are increasingly anti-climactic. Even after the press exposes Conway, he is able to continue on. Color Me Kubrick began with a great premise, but it didn’t offer anything else.
The DVD contains a feature called “Being Alan Conway,” which presents a more interesting story as a documentary than the fictionalized film did. It begins looking at Conway, and then changes focus to Kubrick, about what his reaction to Conway was and what his reaction to the film might have been. Screenwriter Anthony Frewin was an assistant to Kubrick and director Brian W. Cook was an Assistant Director on Barry Lyndon, The Shining, and Eyes Wide Shut, so they have firsthand knowledge and interesting anecdotes about the man. The real Conway appears at the end in an interview before his death, which was three months before Kubrick passed away.
As of March 27th, 2006, Color Me Kubrick is playing at theaters in limited release and is available on DVD.