S is for Stanley


On the list of life changing moments, delivering a ceramic penis statue across London during a snowstorm wouldn’t normally feature that highly. But for Emilio D’Allessandro, it was through delivery of this package that he met the enigmatic film director, Stanley Kubrick.

D’Allessandro, an Italian immigrant, quickly went from being a relatively unremarkable cab driver and aspiring formula one racer to Kubrick’s personal chauffeur and all around right hand man, all because he was the only one in the cab company that was willing to brave the blizzard. It was D’Allessandro’s skill behind the wheel that first piqued Kubrick’s interest in him, starting what turned out to be a thirty year working relationship, fraught with increasingly menial notes from the eccentric director (“Emilio, dogs need flea powder – S”).

What Alex Infascelli delivers with S IS FOR STANLEY isn’t the deep insight into Stanley Kubrick’s personal life that fans have been clamouring for, nor is it an in depth investigation into how working for such a demanding and meticulous man affected Emilio’s personal life. And it isn’t supposed to be. The main focus here is the intriguing and endearing relationship between the director and the one person that he relied on most in the world. Narrated primarily by the utterly charming D’Allessandro, S IS FOR STANLEY provides a close account of exactly what it was like working for Kubrick as he put together some of his most famous films.

Whether it was the ceramic phallus that Malcolm McDowell used to beat a woman to death in A Clockwork Orange or the metric tonne of candles used to light Barry Lyndon, D’Allessandro was entrusted with the most delicate of tasks, and he carried them out with pleasure, oftentimes at the expense of his home life. D’Allessandro and his wife, Janette, detail how Kubrick became ever more demanding as time went on, phoning the house at all hours of the day or night, so much so that, after Janette complained about the phone always being in use, Kubrick paid to have a dedicated line installed so he could easily reach Emilio when needed. This level of dedication led to D’Allessandro being stuck in work while his wife lay ill in the hospital, and even missing the chance to spend time with his dying father, all because Stanley wanted to keep Emilio close. It would be easy to resent Kubrick in this instance, D’Allessandro instead appears honoured by the importance that the needy director placed on his skills.

While it would have been nice to see more of Kubrick’s personal life, or even investigate the family drama that surely occurred due to D’Allessandro’s time commitments a little further, S IS FOR STANLEY delivers an outstanding insight into the complicated relationship between one of the world’s most scrupulous directors, and the taxi driver that so often supported him behind the scenes. D’Allessandro admitted that he didn’t watch any of Kubrick’s films until just before the director passed away, stating that they all seemed “so long”, but once he finally did, his voice joined the rest of the world’s, proclaiming the man, “genius”.

Verdict: 3/5 Paddles


Originally appeared on http://www.takeonecff.com/2016/s-stanley as part of the 36th annual Cambridge Film Festival.

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