Film Review: S Is for Stanley

Stanley Kubrick's chauffeur and personal assistant talks about the 30 years he worked with the filmmaker. Low-key documentary geared towards cultists.
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Courtly and affable, Emilio D’Alessandro worked some 30 years for Stanley Kubrick without ever seeing his movies. S Is for Stanley allows the chauffeur and personal assistant to recount some of the stories from his memoir Stanley Kubrick and Me, accompanied by personal photographs and some truly terrible sound effects.

There's been no shortage of documentaries about Kubrick, from Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures to Room 237, Stanley Kubrick's Boxes, and more recently Stanley Kubrick Remembered. S Is for Stanley adds very little to our understanding of the director, apart from a handful of anecdotes that are really more about D'Alessandro.

He emigrated from Italy to England in the early 1960s, married Janette Woolmore, fathered two children, and struggled to become a Formula One racecar driver. Working as a minicab driver, he was hired to bring a giant phallus across London during a snowstorm to the set of A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick was intrigued enough to schedule another meeting with the driver.

Kubrick hired D'Alessandro first as a chauffeur, then as his personal assistant. The director was kind, generous, but demanding, separating D'Alessandro for months at a time from his family.

D'Alessandro talks about searching Ireland for enough candles to light Barry Lyndon, refusing to drive Jack Nicholson for The Shining, scouting locations for Full Metal Jacket. Kubrick steps in to help when D'Alessandro's son John has a terrible accident. He also becomes distraught when D'Alessandro decides to return home to Cassino.

D'Alessandro tells his stories in a soft, heavily accented voice. His reminiscences are pleasant but guarded, revealing few useful details. "I never watch his films before because they are so long" is a typical comment. Left unspoken is how peculiar and overwhelming Kubrick's demands became.

Director Alex Infascelli apparently had no access to footage of or by Kubrick, or to his surviving family. When he runs out of photos to show, he has D'Alessandro point out mementos from film shoots, or roam his Italian villa. The director's choice of sound effects to accompany D'Alessandro's stories is trite and at times tasteless.

It will take a dedicated Kubrick completist to find inspiration in the director's fondness for pets, bad driving habits and poor typing. S Is for Stanley manages the difficult feat of circling around both of its subjects without saying much interesting about either of them.

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