Movie reviews: Citizen Lane, Filmworker, Jeune Femme
- Citizen Lane (G, 81mins) - 4 stars
- Filmworker (15A, 94mins) - 3 stars
- Jeune Femme (No Cert, IFI, 97mins) - 4 stars
I'm not a fan of docudramas, but with Citizen Lane I'll make an exception. At first I groaned when I saw talking heads like the historian Roy Foster butting in and out of a dramatised section starring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as the legendary Dublin art connoisseur Hugh Lane but, miraculously, director Thaddeus O'Sullivan and writer Mark O'Halloran have made the whole thing purr like a Rolls Royce engine.
Born in Cork in 1875, Lane was the son of a country rector, and Lady Gregory was his aunt. As a young man he worked in London as an art restorer and art dealer before striking out on his own. He had a brilliant eye and a rich appreciation for contemporary art: he amassed an impressive private collection and in 1908 he opened a gallery in Dublin's Harcourt Street so the city's residents could have access to great art.
Lane hoped Dublin Corporation would back his plan for an ambitious permanent art gallery and even approached it with a beautiful proposal for a purpose-built building that would ford the River Liffey. But he was unprepared for the bigotry and small-mindedness that would thwart his best intentions, though pressing events like the Great War and the Dublin Lockout also got in the way.
O'Sullivan's film provides a real insight into Hugh Lane's life and legacy, and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor's performance catches a fascinating, warm, arrogant but overwhelmingly generous man.
Stanley Kubrick was not quite so generous a soul if one reads between the lines of the documentary Filmworker, which tells the salutary story of the director's long-time dogsbody, Leon Vitali. Vitali was a promising young TV and film actor when Kubrick cast him in his 1975 historical epic, Barry Lyndon: Leon was in awe of the great man and at the end of the shoot told Kubrick he wanted to learn how films were made.
It was the beginning of a remarkable 25-year relationship in which Leon worked (usually uncredited) as casting director, assistant director, acting coach, logistics expert, filer, note-taker and secretary on films like The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. Kubrick was a notorious control freak, and Vitali would be called from bed in the dead of night to cater to his every whim: in this workmanlike documentary we see him visibly wilt as he buzzes about like a blue-arsed fly.
Leon insists he doesn't regret a moment of it, but there must surely have been times when he wished he'd never been called to audition for Barry Lyndon. His devotion, meanwhile, extends beyond the grave: Kubrick died in 1999, but Leon has since dutifully overseen the restoration and preservation of his master's films.
Paris usually strikes visitors as idyllic, stylish, effortlessly romantic, but it can be a tough, cold town for those without money or contacts. This salty underbelly is amusingly exposed in Jeune Femme, Leonor Serraille's comic drama starring Laetitia Dosch as Paula, a woman in her early 30s who's floundering in every aspect of her life.
Originally from Lyon, Paula came to Paris at 20 and became the muse of a photographer 20 years her senior who took portraits of her lounging around their Montparnasse apartment. But now, with numbing predictability, he's moved on to a younger model and 12 years of hanging around doing nothing has not prepared Paula for life alone.
Histrionic, unreasonable, determined to feel misunderstood, she's alone and pretty much unemployable until a chance meeting with an old school friend on the metro offers hope of a revival.
Jeune Femme memorably evokes the handsome jungle that is Paris, is sharply observant but never po-faced, and Laetitia Dosch is hilarious as the unhinged and almost lovable Paula.