directed by Alex Infascelli
by Walter Chaw Emilio D'Alessandro was the only delivery driver courageous enough to brave a rare London blizzard to deliver a giant phallus to the set of A Clockwork Orange sometime in the last half of 1970. An aspiring Formula 1 racer and jack of all trades, Emilio caught the eye that day of one Stanley Kubrick, American expat and obsessive-compulsive who happens to be one of the handful of undisputed geniuses in the auteur conversation. Moved to London at this point and destined to die there in 1999 after the first industry screening of his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick hired Emilio essentially by writing him notes on index cards and Post-Its and steadily, some would say monstrously, dominating his life to the extent that it strained Emilio's marriage and caused him to miss the moment of his father's death. It would be easy to make a documentary like Alex Infascelli's S is for Stanley from that perspective: the madman in his laboratory, unwitting Igor fettered to his noisome wake. Harder is what Infascelli actually does, which is understand that the story here isn't about one odd duck, but two...and of a feather to boot. I love the moment where Emilio remembers his wife (they're still together) complaining that Stanley calls day and night: When he told Kubrick about it, Stanley proposed that the solution was to install a separate line in Emilio's house so that they could leave Emilio's wife out of it altogether. Emilio went for it.
Such was their relationship that Kubrick asked Emilio to do everything from return a jacket with a faulty zipper to giving his dozens of rescued strays crushed-up pills and flea powder. Infascelli starts at the beginning, suggesting that Kubrick admired Emilio's ability to read instructions and operate all manner of conveyance. For his part, Emilio is all efficiency and guileless warmth. Just when the volume and inanity of Kubrick's requests--told through images of actual index cards written in Kubrick's own gnomic script or sloppily typed, like intertitles in a perverse silent--begin to overwhelm, however, and our opinion of the director sours, Infascelli shows the card that thanks Emilio for his work. "No one could have helped me like you," one says. Another, after an accident threatens to cripple Emilio's son, contains Kubrick's condolences and references to the best doctors in England, along with an admonition not to worry about the cost: "I'll take care of all of that," it reads. When Emilio decides to move back to Italy, he tells an obviously concerned Kubrick, who asks when he's going. Emilio says, "Stanley, I give you three years' notice." When they finally do move away, Emilio's wife notes that her husband isn't the same. The life has bled from him. He says that it's during this period that he finally watched a few of Kubrick's movies. He hadn't before, because "they're too long." What he discovered was that for the last twenty-something years he'd been working for one of the most important voices in film. "He was a genius." When Emilio says it, it's with something like shock. To him, it was always just Stanley, who needed help with every little thing, and he was glad to do it.
Until these late revelations, I assumed that Emilio stuck it out because he knew that Stanley was "Stanley Kubrick." I believed that S is for Stanley was about the sacrifices that ordinary people make for extraordinary people. (In other words, it's like The Train, and the paintings are Stanley.) But S is for Stanley is infinitely more interesting than that, in that it's about an extraordinary person who made sacrifices for another extraordinary person but who, without the interference of another filmmaker, Infascelli, would have remained largely anonymous. Emilio and his wife relocated to London to participate in the making of Eyes Wide Shut. Both appear in the film in small cameos. On the day of the shoot, his wife gets a hug from Tom Cruise on set and all the extras gather 'round to find out who she is. "Me?" she says. "I'm nobody." But that's not true, exactly. The picture is ultimately about human relationships and the mystery of loyalty, altruism, generosity, family. Emilio's is an immigrant's story--and Stanley's is, too; both of them found fulfillment of some need in the other and a degree of shared empathy that formed the core of the most significant relationships in each of their lives. Jon Ronson wrote an essay--which he later adapted into a short documentary--called "Stanley Kubrick's Boxes", about visiting the estate of the late director and rifling through boxes and boxes of meticulous, exhaustive errata pertaining to Kubrick's projects. That's one part of the story. The other is Emilio D'Allesandro's: that Kubrick was complicated, and Emilio was complicated, and we're all complicated--and the things we produce are all works of genius. It's just that some are eternal, while others those nameless products and producers of eternity.