‘S is for Stanley’: Rome Review

S is for Stanley Still - S 2015
Courtesy of Rome Film Festival

S is for Stanley Still - S 2015

Anecdotes about a filmmaker who ran his life like clockwork (orange).

Italian director Alex Infascelli explores a seldom seen side of Stanley Kubrick.

There have been documentaries about cinematographers, screenwriters, producers, stuntmen, special f/x artists and even make-up artists. But Alex Infascelli’s S is for Stanley may be the first ever film made about a director’s personal assistant. Of course, when that director is Stanley Kubrick, there’s a reason to raise an eyebrow.

Revisiting the travails of Emilio D’Alessandro, an Italian immigrant who went from being an unknown London taxi driver and aspiring Formula 1 racer to Kubrick’s chauffeur and guy Friday for nearly thirty years, this TV-style affair is entirely about the men and rarely about the movies – which D’Alessandro claims to have not even watched until after his boss’s death. But fans of the late, great filmmaker will nonetheless find some curious insights into an artist who shied away from the camera and mostly kept his private life under wraps, adding S to the growing pile of Kubrick memorabilia currently available on both the screen and the printed page.

D’Alessandro was just another hardworking cabbie when, in 1970, his expert road skills were called up to deliver a package to a movie set outside of London. The set was for A Clockwork Orange, and the package was the giant phallus sculpture that Malcolm McDowell’s character uses to brutally murder one of his many victims.

Kubrick was instantly piqued by D’Alessandro’s prowess at the wheel, hiring him as driver, handyman and all-around assistant, and indoctrinating him into a personal universe that was as meticulous and micromanaged as any of the master’s films.

According to D’Alessandro, every room in Kubrick’s sizeable British estate – the Bronx-born director spent the latter half of his life in the U.K. – contained a printed set of rules (“If you open it, CLOSE IT!” “If you make a mess, CLEAN IT UP!”). He would otherwise dish out dozens of daily orders via handwritten or typewritten notes, ranging from the strictly mundane (“Dogs need flea powder”) to matters of the utmost professional importance (D’Alessandro helped oversee the manufacture and transport of the massive supply of candles used to light Barry Lyndon).

For those viewers who never knew that Kubrick was such a control freak, all of this may be eye-opening. For the rest of us, Infascelli combines such familiar anecdotes with the story of D’Alessandro’s own life, which was constantly strained by the director’s nonstop demands – to the point that, when the assistant’s wife complained Kubrick was calling their house way too much, the latter insisted on installing a private phone line so that he could reach D’Alessandro at any hour of the night.

Despite such a subservient relationship, Kubrick was clearly a respectful employer, going out of his way to assist D’Alessandro’s son after a near-fatal car accident, while begging his favorite helper to stay on long after his retirement date. In fact, Kubrick became such a fan of the Italian that he named one of the restaurants after him on the set of Eyes Wide Shut, and even gave him a cameo in a scene with Tom Cruise.

It’s rare to dig so deeply into the domestic minutiae of an artist’s life, and Infascelli deserves credit for making such details halfway interesting, if not quite enough to fill an entire documentary. As for the movies themselves, D’Alessandro confesses that they were “so long” he didn’t have time for them while he was at work, though he did finally watch everything after Kubrick passed away in 1999. His verdict: “genius.”

Production company: Kinethica, Lock and Valentine
Director: Alex Infascelli
Screenwriters: Alex Infascelli, Vincenzo Scuccimarra, Filippo Ulivieri, based on the book “Stanley Kubrick e Me” by Filippo Ulivieri
Producers: Inti Carboni, Alex Infascelli, Federica Paniccia, Davide Luchetti, Lorenzo Foschi
Directors of photography: Edouardo Carlo Bolli, Gigi Martinucci
Editors: Arcangelo Pugliese, Alex Infrascelli
Composer: John Cummings
Sales agent: Kinethica

No rating, 58 minutes