Since his death in March 1999, the famously secretive Stanley Kubrick has been the subject of numerous documentaries. The best remains brother-in-law Jan Harlan's Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001), but devotees should also check out Gary Leva's Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick (2007), Jon Ronson's Stanley Kubrick's Boxes (2008), Rodney Ascher's Room 237 (2012) and Alex Infascelli's S Is for Stanley (2015), which profiled his long-serving chauffeur, Emilio D'Alessandro. Curiously, there's no mention of him in Tony Zierra's Filmworker, which turns the spotlight on another of Kubrick's tirelessly loyal acolytes, Leon Vitali, who gave up a promising career as an actor to pander to the exiled American auteur's every whim. 

As Leon Vitali declares in voiceover that life is like a journey with many changes of train, an unseen onlooker compares him to a moth whose wings were singed by the bright light that was Stanley Kubrick. But Vitali knew from the moment he saw 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971) that he wanted to work for the greatest film director around. 

Vitali made his name on stage and in television in shows like The Fenn Street Gang, Follyfoot. Z Cars and Crown Court. He was lauded the TV fanzines for his blonde locks and trendy dress sense and even made films like Jack Gold's Conflict (1973), with Trevor Howard and Martin Sheen. But he was astonished when Kubrick cast him as Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon (1975) and we see him for the first time as an older man in his bandana describing the warm thrill that passed through him when he first shook hands with the man who would change his life.

He recalls how Kubrick was very restless on set, as he sought new vantage points to view a scene and then changed the lenses in the camera before deciding to scrap that approach and go for something entirely different. Vitali instantly bought into this philosophy and went along with endlessly reshooting the scene in which he enters a palatial room with his young stepbrother wearing his shoes, as he realised that Kubrick was looking for the emotional rhythm of the scene rather than just capturing words and images. He explains how his long speech to mother Marisa Berenson was filmed in a series of long takes, while Ryan O'Neal (who had taken the title role) pops up to apologise for hitting Vitali so hard in the scuffle that ends the sequence, although he protests that Kubrick had egged him on because he wanted to feel the severity of the blows. 

After one session, Vitali was nervous when Kubrick asked him to stay behind, as several actors  had already been fired for not knowing their lines. But Kubrick wanted Vitali to remain on set and revealed that he was planning some new scenes to justify keeping him around. Four decades on, the excitement of having such faith shown in him is still etched on Vitali's face. He meets up with O'Neal to reminisce about what he had to eat in order to make him vomit on screen and Vitali also confides that he mentioned to Kubrick during the last days of the shoot that he had grown interested in the mechanics of film-making and Kubrick sent him a book of artistic masterpieces to encourage him to make a serious study of the craft. 

Following the release of the film, Vitali's stock rose and drama school classmate Brian Capron admits to being impressed and jealous that he had been in a Kubrick picture. He was offered seasons at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, but did Calvin Floyd's movie Terror of Frankenstein (1977) on the proviso he could watch the editing process. Then, Kubrick sent him a copy of Stephen King's The Shining and asked Vitali if he would like to go the United States to find a kid to play the five year-old Danny Torrance. 

Director Mike Alfreds joins Capron in saying that he was surprised that Vitali gave up his acting career so readily, but directors Nick Redman and Brian Jamieson can understand him wanting to work with a master. We see Vitali scrambling around in the attic to find notebooks and correspondence because Kubrick paid as close an interest in how past films were being screened in cinemas around the world as he did in future projects. He recalls how Kubrick wrote everything down and how he also got into the habit of scribbling notes at every opportunity. He shows us a notebook (`The Book of Lies') in which he fabricated Danny Lloyd's working hours to get round the strict rules on child labour on a film set. 

Vitali remembers meeting the boy at an audition in Chicago. Some 4000 hopefuls had applied and Lloyd was rather sulky when his mom tried to prompt him into making an impression on Vitali. But they hit it off by staring at each other in silence and Vitali knew he had found his Danny when Lloyd piped up that he liked his suit. Vitali also describes how he had come across Lisa and Louise Burns to play the phantom girls Danny encounters at the Overlook Hotel. He remembers their mother bringing them in at the end of a day's casting and how they brought to mind Diane Arbus's 1967 photo, `Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey'. Sadly, however, the now 50 year-old sisters don't appear in this film.

On set, Vitali's rapport with Lloyd meant that Kubrick trusted him to be his unofficial acting coach and we see footage from the `making of' documentary of Vitali running along a corridor in front of the camera as a reassuring presence. Lloyd remains grateful for the attention Vitali lavished on him, even though he also had duties running lines with Shelley Duvall, who was playing Lloyd's mother. He had also been entrusted with taking location photographs of hotels during his Stateside casting trip and Kubrick had been so pleased with his efforts that he had passed on tips from his own early days as a photographer about shutter speeds and lighting. 

Vitali smiles as he remembers how people were always surprised by how gentle Kubrick was when they met him for the first time, as he had the reputation of being a perfectionist taskmaster. But he admits that he saw another side of him during the making of Full Metal Jacket (1987). Matthew Modine jokes that Kubrick seemed so dependent upon Vitali that he likened him to Victor Frankenstein's assistant, Igor. The late R. Lee Ermey remembers being hired as a technical adviser on the film and hoping to get the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, even though Kubrick had no initial intention of using him. But the ex-Marine didn't know the meaning of defeat and made sure the director knew what he could do. This led to Tim Colceri being demoted to the role of the Door Gunner and he still resents the fact that Kubrick sent Vitali with a note to replace him after eight months of work and suggests that the director lacked the stones to do the right thing. 

Modine veered between feeling sorry for Vitali, as he was always being pushed around, and wondering whether he was spying on the cast for Kubrick. By the end of the production, however, he had come to realise that Vitali was just a nice guy trying to ensure that everyone did their best. Ermey saw him as an ally and recalls doing improvisation sessions with Vitali and Kubrick that helped shape his dialogue. Indeed, he claims that he owes his career to Vitali's dedication and Colceri also recalls how Vitali went up in a helicopter with him (because Kubrick wouldn't fly) in order to help him refine his brief, but memorable role. 

Ermey and Modine admit they are too selfish to have sacrificed their own careers in the way that Vitali did and Warners executive Julian Senior says he was a jack of all trades. Vitali even found himself doing foley work on Full Metal Jacket because Kubrick felt he had the ability do it. As a result, he worked long days on set and at the Kubrick estate, alongside such trusted insiders as Tony Frewin and Jan Harlan. He also learned about colour timing and Deluxe colour lab chief Colin Mossman recalls Vitali being present whenever Kubrick was. But Vitali also did research into the kind of weapons that might be used in for the unrealised Wartime Lies and ensured that the DVD packaging for Kubrick's films conformed precisely to his specifications. Moreover, he kept tabs of every print of Kubrick's films and conducted a lengthy search for the original negative of Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).

Senior also credits Vitali with supervising the making of trailers for Kubrick's films around the world and notes that he always thought of things that nobody at the studio had even conceived. Warren Liberfarb, the former president of Warner Home Video, remembers Vitali going around the UK taking pictures of display stands following the video release of Full Metal Jacket to ensure it was seen to best effect in every store. Vitali admits that Kubrick often wrote letters using his name to get what he wanted while not appearing to be a control freak. But Vitali is fine with this, as he saw himself as a `filmworker' whose job was to help a great artist get his work seen in the best possible way. He was sometimes nettled that Kubrick hid him away from studio executives, as he felt his hippie look didn't fit the authority image that came across in his manner. But he was happy to do whatever Kubrick asked because he knew he always wanted the best for the right reasons. 

Former Warner exec Steve Southgate and Eyes Wide Shut (1999) crew member Lisa Leone admit to being in awe (and even being intimidated) by Kubrick and Senior claims that the force of his personality and his shifting moods in pursuit of perfection makes you admire Vitali all the more for putting up with it and doing so with uncomplaining grace. But Vitali admits there were times when he wondered why he bothered, such as the Christmas Eve when Kubrick had given him both barrels for leaving flare in a shot (having previously insisted that it didn't bother him) and then presented him a box of gifts. Yet, the workaholic director was on the phone numerous times next day to check up on various matters that could easily have waited. Senior suggests that Vitali needed the patience of a tribe of Jobs to put up with the vitriol and the fury and he concedes that the kid gloves were often off and that Kubrick did occasionally treat him like a vassal. 

Yet Vitali could always appreciate the reasons behind the tirades. Moreover, he admits that he sometimes made mistakes and didn't understand what Kubrick required of him. But while Modine says Vitali was often crucified, Mossman says the pair had an unspoken understanding and that Kubrick was always grateful that Vitali had his back. Writer-producer Phil Rosenthal avers that his respect for a genius would end the moment he ordered him to clean a room, but Vitali was forever tidying up after Kubrick and the dogs he let lie on the sofas. He also had to keep reorganising filing cabinets and sorting boxes of prints and documents and Vitali shows us long lists of chores that Kubrick would send him in the expectation that they would be completed within a day.

Among Vitali's tasks was tending to the pets and he recalls how he set up cameras and monitors throughout the house so that Kubrick could keep an eye on an ailing cat named Jessica. Vitali says sick pets floored Kubrick and he would have to keep the business going while he went into purdah over a fading dog. Director Jacob Rosenberg says it's remarkable that a trained actor would sublimate himself in this manner and Vitali merely shrugs in claiming that he was putting in no more into the relationship than Kubrick was prepared to do. But Senior and Redman suggest that Vitali gave up a good deal of family time to serve his master and children Max, Vera and Masha reveal that their father often worked himself to a standstill. They used to resent the fact that he had energy for Kubrick and not for them and that his mood in the evening depended on how their day had gone. But they admire his tenacity and don't have anything particularly bad to say about Kubrick. 

Stellan Skarsgård and Pernilla August worked with Vitali in a TV production of Hamlet and, over stills of Ingmar Bergman working, they opine that there are certain directors who inspire such devotion. Jamieson remembers Vitali working with an abscess on a tooth to finish a task that Kubrick had deemed too urgent to give him time off for treatment. Vitali admits that Kubrick ate him up, but Rosenberg claims that being so needed can become addictive. Having been a factotum to a well-known Swedish theatre director, Skarsgård knows how thrilling it is to see things through a great man's eyes. But Vitali lets it be known that he wanted to be there, as he was at Kubrick's service as much as he was at the service of his films. Moreover, he had the privilege of assisting the finest director of the century.

Vitali recalls how his father had witnessed the Germans shooting his mother during the Great War for refusing to say where her resistance fighter husband was hiding. He thinks this left a scar and siblings Tim, Maria and Chris agree that their childhood was often fraught. Vitali was eight when his father died and he remembers his mother looking peaceful when telling him to go to his room and reflect upon what had happened. He felt sad that he wouldn't get to walk with his father to the sweet shop on a Sunday again, but he was also glad he wouldn't get slapped or have to watch his father thrashing his older brothers. Vitali concludes that dealing with his father taught him how to take a step back and that this talent allowed him to cope with Kubrick. 

Senior notes how low Kubrick's production costs were and states this was because he did everything himself but act. Vitali managed to get a performance out of him, however, when he recorded a speech for a Directors Guild award and Vitali smiles as he recalls having to operate the camera and the cue cards, as Kubrick kept insisting on more takes. He felt he should end the speech by walking backwards away from the camera, but Vitali persuaded him that a fade would be better. 

While making Eyes Wide Shut, Marie Richardson had to do an audition tape with Kubrick and Vitali and the footage shows her looking distinctly ill at ease. During auditions for the red-caped MC, Kubrick called Vitali and informed him that he was to play the role and he was embarrassed at having to tell some well-known actors that their services would not be required. Similarly, Kubrick checked the lighting at the end of a day's shooting to ensure that the images would look the way he wanted and Vitali admits that some professionals disliked having their toes trodden on in such a way. By contrast, Vitali had time to encourage young actors like Treva Etienne, who was playing the morgue attendant, even though he was doubling up as an actor and an on-set assistant (often only leaving at 3am) and was also having to supervise the prints for a Venice Film Festival retrospective.

But Vitali noticed that Kubrick was feeling the pace and was often out on his feet by the end of a day. However, he only knew one way to work and kept up his old regimen. Vitali recalls their last conversation when he received a phone call during a trip to the supermarket and they spoke for two hours with him leaning on his car. He was pleased that Kubrick had been in a gentle mood when he heard that he had died in the early hours of the following day. 

With his passing, Vitali found himself having to battle for Kubrick's vision of Eyes Wide Shut and Senior recalls that he was selfless in arguing his master's case in the face of executives who tried to take advantage of Kubrick's absence to bypass Vitali in proposing their own opinions of how the director had wanted the film to look. He was working ridiculous hours in order to monitor the quality of release prints and made himself ill. But, true to self-effacing form, Vitali doesn't want to talk about this. Instead, we move on to the disastrous rush-release of a boxed set of Kubrick films that had critics and Amazon users howling with dismay. Lieberfarb had ordered an immediate remastering of the pictures and Ned Price, the VP of Restoration at Warner, credits the success of the process to Vitali's in-depth knowledge of both the prints and Kubrick's intentions.

As soon as he had overseen that task, Vitali relocated to the United States. Sound engineer Chris Jenkins believes he should be recognised as the standard bearer for Kubrick's genius because he took a lot of flak from people who had put up with Kubrick's prickly personality and wanted some payback. He also frequently found himself caught between Warner Bros and widow Christiane Kubrick and her brother, Jan Harlan. Colourist Janet Wilson says it was exacting work because Kubrick was such a precise film-maker and yet the suits wanted product not perfection and Vitali was accused of creating problems. As a result, his office was withdrawn and he wound up working from a desk in the hallway to ensure the quality of the transfers. One voice opines that Vitali's legacy has been to allow future generations to see Kubrick's films as he had intended them to be seen. 

When the Los Angeles County Museum of Art curated a Kubrick exhibition, Vitali was not only snubbed, but he was also excluded and from the gala. Close friend Beverley Wood from Deluxe contacted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences about getting a spoken record from Vitali before it was too late. But her suggestion was also ignored. Yet Vitali took people round the show as a favour and he admits that seeing the lenses and other memorabilia on display afforded him an opportunity to say goodbye. He continues to work for Kubrick without pay and Max has periodically had to help him out financially. But he attends Q&A screenings and always gives his time because he feels duty-bound. As the closing caption reveals, however, Vitali is now advising the estate and working on a Digital 4K restoration of 2001: A Space Odyssey while also building a comprehensive archive of all Kubrick's film elements. He considers this a happy ending. 

Displaying dedication far and beyond the call of duty, Leon Vitali is a remarkable fellow who thoroughly deserves to be lauded for his contribution to Stanley Kubrick's distinctive achievement. He remains modest, but clearly feels he is entitled to some overdue fuss or he wouldn't have consented to the making of this profile. His anecdotes are fond and polished, but they tell us little we didn't already know about the infamously difficult and chameleonic director and one rather wishes someone would make a documentary about his early days as a photographer or his struggles as a Hollywood hired hand. But, while he is guarded in his disclosures about Kubrick, Vitali is even more self-censoring when it comes to himself and we actually discover very little about his life outside Childwickbury Manor, his abilities as an actor or his deeper emotions about being a full-time factotum. 

The contributions of the likes of Ryan O'Neal, Matthew Modine and R. Lee Ermey sprinkle a little stardust on proceedings. But there are too many suits seizing a moment in the spotlight to say little or nothing of interest. Moreover, there's no sign of Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman or even Shelley Duvall and no one from the Kubrick estate felt the need to pay tribute to someone who had played a key role in keeping their show on the road. This suggests a schism crying out to be investigated, but Zierra is too discreet to pry. He also proves overly Kubrick-o-centric, as he fails to mention Vitali's involvement with a pair of Todd Field pictures, In the Bedroom (2001) and Little Children (2006).

Serving as his own cinematographer and editor, Zierra makes solid use of the archive material and Vitali's own memorabilia. He also employs some charming line-drawn animations by AC Yoffe to illustrate scenes featuring Kubrick's cats and Vitali settling down to sleep on a mat in his clothes so that he would be ready to leap up the moment Kubrick called him. This segment implies a puppyish readiness to do his master's bidding and should have led on to an investigation into Kubrick's egotism and the extent to which cineastes have bought into the myth of the all-seeing movie mastermind he did nothing to dispel. But Zierra is much more respectful than this, as he sits at the feet of the 69 year-old Leamingtonian with the straggly hair, bandana and `cor blimey' accent, as he reflects with quiet satisfaction on a job well done.

It should be mentioned that Christopher Nolan has overseen a 4K digital restoration of 2001: A Space Odyssey and that some 70mm prints have been struck to mark the sci-fi landmark's 50th anniversary. Also on the revival trail this week is Robert Wise's The Sound of Music (1965). It's less clear why this enduringly popular, but wildly overrated schmaltzfest is back in cinemas. But back it is. 

Following a blink-and-miss-it theatrical release and a showing under the BBC's Arena banner, Roger Michell's Nothing Like a Dame arrives on disc. A delightful record of Dames Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins reminiscing about their lives on and off the stage and screen, this would make a grand double bill with Joe Stephenson's McKellen: Playing the Part. 

Gathering at the Sussex home that Plowright once shared with husband Laurence Olivier, the fabulous foursome waste no time in recalling their early days on the boards. Atkins blushes at the memory of the initials she had to sport on her costumes when she joined the KY dance troupe, while Dench has to remind Smith of having to hide from Miles Malleson during a run of The Double Dealer in Edinburgh. Over clips of a 1962 television version of The Cherry Orchard, Dench also credits Peggy Ashcroft and John Gielgud with saving her career, as they told her to ignore the bullying of director Michel Saint-Denis and their kindness gave her the courage to carry on.

Another small-screen snippet shows Smith telling a chat show host that she stole her comic technique from Kenneth Williams, while Atkins relates an anecdote about Timothy West returning to his theatrical digs to find his landlady having sex on the dining-room table and they joke about the old habit of nailing a fish under the table in sub-standard boarding houses. Once they have retreated inside to avoid the rain, Smith sings a song about a table from Listen to the Wind and we see the programme from the production at The Playhouse in Beaumont Street. 

Thence, the move on to discussing Cleopatra. Atkens and Plowright admit to turning down offers because they felt they would be criticised for being too plain to play such a fabled beauty. Smith confesses to playing the role in Canada, where no one would notice. But Dench remembers asking Peter Hall if he wanted `a menopausal dwarf' for the lead in his 1987 National Theatre production of Antony and Cleopatra. She fondly recalls the crew slipping her champagne and a lobster salad on the last night of the run, while Atkens pipes up that most Antonys bitterly resent having to play second fiddle in a play they had hoped to steal. 

Smith jokes that Alan Bates probably wished he could have played Cleopatra before Michell prompts them into considering roles that gave them problems. Dench flawlessly delivers a speech she could never remember when she was a young actress, while Atkens admits to being told by an upcoming thesp that what she had considered to be a daringly naturalistic performance in a 1971 TV rendition of The Duchess of Malfi was `okay for its day'. Plowright dislikes actors who deliver Shakespeare's poetry as though they were improvising it and we see her movingly playing Shylock in a 1970 TV take on The Merchant of Venice. Yet, while Plowright thinks an actor should strive to be true to the text rather than drag it down to their level, Smith opines that styles change over time and that declaiming to the rear stalls would look very odd today. Over a clip of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968), Dench insists there should be a middle ground.

The subject moves on to the tenure of Laurence Olivier at the Old Vic and Smith admits to Plowright that she was terrified of her husband when she played opposite him in The Recruiting Officer (1963), The Master Builder and Othello (both 1964). She remembers him slapping her so hard across the face that she claims it was the only time she saw stars at the National Theatre. Smith is seated on a sofa with Dench and, over clips from Olivier and John Sichel's The Three Sisters (1970) and Robert Altman's Gosford Park (2001), they admit to finding filming a daunting business because people's expectations are always so high and the silences are always so deafening when something goes wrong. 

Neither were avid moviegoers as kids, although they saw Olivier's Henry V (1944) and Hamlet (1948) at school. Smith also recalls being put off films by The Jolson Story (1946) and only becoming hooked on acting after playing two minor roles (one of which was a Chinese boy) in The Letter at the Oxford Playhouse. Chatting with Atkins, Plowright remembers her breakthrough role in a Coventry production of Roots and how good it felt to have the audience in the palm of her hand in The School for Scandal (both 1959). She was informed by her mother that she was no oil painting and was lucky to have inherited her legs and not her father's. As we see Atkins in the `Richard II' episode of An Age of Kings (1960), she also remembers being told she wasn't a looker. But she has always been grateful to the old actor who told her to cover up any physical deficiencies by being sexy. 

Dench and Smith muse on the fact they can remember lines from Oxford revues they did decades ago and yet can't recall what they did last weekend. They reflect on raising their children alongside each other and Smith tells a story about Olivier trying to get one of his sons to tell him where he had hidden the keys to his bar. Atkins was married to Julian Glover at the time and she recalls going on a demonstration in Trafalgar Square with Vanessa Redgrave and Dench interjects that Redgrave once missed a show after she was arrested. Over a montage of TV clips (including Dench on Z Cars), Atkins quips that they got up to some mischief in the 1960s. However, Dench continued to have a weekly session of silent contemplation, which carried over from her Quaker school in York. She is shown footage of the York Mystery Plays when she was 18 and Atkins is impressed that Dench can still remember some of her lines. 

When the four are reunited, they discuss their attitude to being created dames. Plowright says she isn't sure she believes in the honours system, but was determined to accept after the other three had received their awards. She had been Lady Olivier prior to her elevation and Smith cheekily asks if the two titles ever compete for precedence in her imagination. As the pair had co-starred with Dench in Franco Zeffirelli's Tea With Mussolini (1999), they recall walking out of a hotel because Smith insisted it was `a knocking shop' and joining Plowright in the Grand, where they used to drink a bottle of Prosecco and then try to remember where their rooms were. 

Off camera, Michell pushes them in the direction of reviews and, over footage of Dench in Romeo and Juliet (1960), she and Atkins admit to getting poisonous notices from the famously waspish Caryl Brahms. He also tries to goad them into exploring ageing and Smith makes a joke about Dench needing a hearing aid. As she is now blind, Plowright is quite content to accept her need for assistance. But Dench seethes on recalling being patronised by a young paramedic after she had been stung on the behind by a hornet. When he asked if she had a carer, she roared back that she had just spent eight weeks in A Winter's Tale at the Garrick. 

Moving on to working with their famous husbands, Smith consoles Plowright with having had to put up with the most difficult one of them all. She and Olivier had teamed in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer (1960) and she admits that their relationship changed her life, as she was bound to the finest actor of his generation until he died in 1989. Atkins and Glover co-starred in Electra (1974), while Smith won an Oscar opposite Robert Stephens in Ronald Neame's The Pride of Miss Jean Brodie (1969). Over an extract from Private Lives (1972), she concedes that his alcoholism meant it was difficult to know what state he would be in each night. But she is grateful that they were a golden couple for a while and prefers to dwell on the good times. 

Dench is more reticent in talking about Michael Williams, with whom she enjoyed great success in the BBC sitcom, A Fine Romance (1981). Her pause speaks volumes for how much she still misses him. But she relates a sweet story about them being dreadful corpsers and how Richard Vernon reduced them both to helpless laughter by changing a car registration number into a risqué jape. 

When Michell asks whether they will ever retire, Smith declares that it all depends on how many roles Dench declines, as she always gets her leftovers. Plowright also ribs Dench about getting her paws on everything and she feigns being offended by the implication she shamelessly hoovers up cameos. Smith volunteers the fact she has never watched a single episode of Downton Abbey, even though she was presented with a boxed set. She is in the process of explaining about reaction shot acting in Chris Columbus's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) when she becomes aware of the still photographer on the set and wonders if he has enough snaps yet. 

Dench claims that playing Queen Victoria in John Madden's Mrs Brown (1997) changed her life, as it reminded people she could do film roles. She also reveals that she agreed to play M in Bond films like Sam Mendes's Skyfall (2012) because Williams had been a huge fan of the series and had always been impressed by Kim Philby's acting skills when he invented the media to his mother's house to deny being a spy in 1963. However, as Michell tries to coax Smith and Dench into discussing the part fear plays in a performance, the former protests that she's tired and asks her director if anyone had told him that they're all quite old. 

Someone pops the cork on a bottle of fizz and spirits rise, as Smith regales the assembled with the news that Dame Edith Evans used to have two pairs of dentures - one for eating and one for speaking. She admits she used to think she was a terrible old dear, but time has mellowed her. Michell asks what advice they would give their younger selves. Plowright wishes she had discovered yoga and meditation earlier, while Atkins regrets being so confrontational and not listening more. Smith claims her motto would be `when in doubt, don't' and the subtitle `Cum Dubito Desisto' pops up when Atkins wonders what this would be in Latin. Dench wishes she hadn't fallen in love so often, but Plowright says it's never too late for that sort of thing and they all get the giggles. 

A montage of celebrated roles follows before the conversation returns to Olivier and Smith mischievously asks Plowright if she ever told him she preferred Michael Redgrave's Hamlet. She remembers seeing another actor playing the Dane in New York and ducking out of a moment that had inflamed the critics. When he told them he wasn't in the mood and couldn't give the audience a lie, she had reminded him that all acting is an illusion, as Hamlet always gets up for his curtain call. Atkins smiles that it's impossible to follow that and they all fall silent. 

Following a montage of the quartet picking up award that's accompanied by a live version of the Rolling Stones hit `Honky Tonk Women', Dench reads Prospero's lines from The Tempest: `We are such stuff, as dreams are made on, and our little life, is rounded with a sleep.' Little else needs to be said. Just watch, listen and marvel. Perhaps someone can persuade Glenda Jackson, Diana Rigg, Vanessa Redgrave and Helen Mirren to do the sequel. And why don't they show plays from the classical repertoire on television any longer? Maybe somebody needs to launch the stage version of Talking Pictures. God bless it. 

As mentioned in this week's In Cinemas column, Swedish documentarist Göran Hugo Olsson has proved himself the master of the archival actuality with The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011) and Concerning Violence (2014). However, he didn't have to spend as much time rootling around the vaults for the material in That Summer, as most of what he needs is contained in the cans of 16mm film exposed by Lee Radziwill and photographer Peter Beard in and around the Long Island home of ageing socialite Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her spinster daughter. Olsson has slipped in some Super-8 snippets shot by Andy Warhol and diarist supreme Jonas Mekas for Scenes From the Life of Andy Warhol (1990) and This Side of Paradise: Fragments of an Unfinished Biography (1999). But, essentially, he has stuck with the footage that anticipated Grey Gardens (1975), the vérité landmark that was produced three years later by Albert and David Maysles, in collaboration with Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer. 

Given that Radziwill is the sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and that Big Edie and Little Edie (as they were known) are their aunt and cousin, this record of an aristocratic twilight retains its irresistible allure. The Maysles were so aware of the pair's appeal that they recycled their out-takes into The Beales of Grey Gardens (2009), while, that same year, Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore played the eccentric recluses to excellent effect in Michael Sucsy's acclaimed teleplay, Grey Gardens, which was co-scripted by the director and the estimable Patricia Rozema. Yet the Edies are at their most natural and least guarded while on camera for the first time, which makes this repackaging of the glorified home movies recorded in the summer of 1972 all the more intriguing. 

In a prologue filmed at Montauk on 16 January 2016, Peter Beard shows pages from a book of photos, as he remembers the good times he shared with the likes of Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, Karen Blixen and Mick and Bianca Jagger. He also tenders a few wildlife and supermodel shots and keeps asking if they are registering okay on film. We then cut back 44 years to the footage taken by Beard, Warhol, Jonas Mekas, Albert Maysles and Vincent Fremont of Lee Radziwill, Peter Beard, Warhol and Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale.

Accompanying excerpts from Sofia Coppola's 2013 interview with Radziwill, Beard narrates in DVD commentary mode over the footage. Together, they recall how they had first met when Jackie Onassis had invited Beard to Scorpios, while he was working on his book, Longing for Darkness. They had gone cruising on Aristotle Onassis's yacht, The Christina, and spent some time in Kenya, where Radziwill and Beard had formed a firm friendship based on her need to spark off fresh ideas.

The Bouvier clan regularly visited Montauk, where they rented a property near the beach to host such artistic celebrities as Warhol, Mekas, Capote, the Jaggers and Paul Morrissey. A home movie clip shows Warhol filming on the shore and Radziwill ducking in behind him to get her own shot of somebody buried in the sand. We see Warhol and Beard photographing Evelyn Kuhn with a skull and Beard reveals in voiceover that while anyone can try to create images, only a few succeed in avoiding the mundane. He revels in the fact that accidents can play such a significant role in the creation of a masterpiece.

In the summer of 1972, Beard and Radziwill started to make a film on life in the Hamptons and agreed to shoot scenes with Big Edie and Little Edie at  Grey Gardens. Albert and David Maysles were hired as part of the crew. We see shots of them with Radziwill's children, Anthony and Anna, and she describes how wonderfully eccentric the Beales were. Beard explains that they had been holed up in their ramshackle home since the Hurricane of 1938 and had become so reclusive and eccentric that he had doubted whether the project would ever get off the ground. But Radziwill used her powers of persuasion and filming began in June 1972, only for the footage to be shelved and presumed lost before it resurfaced 45 years later. 

Reel One opens with Big Edie talking on a garden bench with Radziwill about how the locals had been trying to evict them because Grey Gardens had fallen into disrepair. She notes that while Little Edie isn't one for dusting, she is otherwise neat and clean and admits that it shook them when outsiders attempted to tell them how to live their own lives in their own home. Little Edie shows off the cellar, where she had been storing empty cat food tins in coal sacks because the binmen wouldn't wade through the overgrown gardens in order to collect them. 

As the Beales are no longer on the Social Register, they feel snubbed and it's interesting to eavesdrop on Big Edie phoning a neighbour to tell her about Radziwill's East Hampton project and having to explain that she is her niece and Jackie O's sister. During the call, a man hauls bags away from the basement, while Little Edie sits in an armchair. She describes how she had bought in the Bloomingdale's sale and dubbed it `the Chair of Disappointment' because nobody had ever sat in it.

Radziwill keeps trying to coax Big Edie into singing because she has a fine voice and this talent crops up when Radziwill goes to interview a female neighbour, whose mother had been a promising opera singer before she met her husband. The first reel ends at this point (with the woman not being identified, but saying how abominably the community had behaved towards the Beales) and we see a series of Beard's monochrome photos showing the black mould on the walls of Grey Gardens and how the cats had the run of the place. In voiceover, he describes how the locals had ganged up on the Beales and had sent the fire brigade to spray some of the lower rooms with their hoses in a bid to clean them up and make the women feel unwanted and uncouth.

Reel Two opens with Big Edie giving Radziwill permission to film from the balcony and Little Edie accompanies her. She explains how they had allowed the garden get overgrown before introducing cats Bigelow and Teddy Kennedy, who were respectively named after one of her mother's former suitors and Jackie's brother-in-law (before he got fat). Beard tries to take pictures of the cats and concedes in voiceover that the house was a shambles, with 30 sacks being filled with feline faeces during the summer tidy up. However, Onassis had agreed to pay for the renovation of Grey Gardens and Radziwill is seen meeting with Salinger the contractor to discuss the installation of running water and electricity. 

Attorney William vanden Heuvel gives an interview to a bearded reporter, in which he expresses surprise that the Beales had been harassed because  nobody had registered an official complaint about the state of the property.  He confirms that the there isn't a rodent problem and jokes that the Beales are the envy of their neighbours because have a family of resident raccoons.

Radziwill briefs a man named Olsen about the upholstered furniture that she thinks he should remove and destroy. But she consults Little Edie about the things that could go into storage during the renovation. Little Edie shows them a hut in the garden that has been named after the song `My Adobe Hacienda'. She comes up close to the camera in her green scarf with a golden leaf pedant pinned to it and enjoys playing to the gallery. She can't remember the lyrics, but the recollection amuses Radziwill, who ends Reel Two by bidding farewell to Big Edie and promising to return after the weekend.

Beard recalls enjoying the visit enormously and suggests that the Edies lived in a dream world and were quite content with their lot and each other's company. He opens Reed Three by berating the petty-minded neighbours, who loved to persecute them and make them feel afraid that they were going to be turfed out. A man and a woman come on a tour of inspection and Radziwill has Salinger outline his planned improvements. The unnamed woman is a little sheepish in front of the camera. But Mr Simon, the man with the clipboard, is full of himself, as he strides around passing judgement. Big Edie chats with the woman and makes sure she sees a portrait of her in her heyday finery and bids her farewell with the reassurance that she doesn't hate her as much as she used to do.

Meanwhile, Little Edie pops in and out (as she is always looking for either her pants or her make-up) and Big Edie remarks that timing is the secret to making a great picture. She sits Simon down to ask if he is impressed with the way things are changing and he admits it's a lot better than it was and looks forward to the time when he can make social rather than business calls. Face to face with Big Edie, he is highly deferential. But Little Edie keeps fretting because she can't find her eyeliner and is reluctant to pose next to Big Edie's portrait, as her mother keeps rattling on in the background about how her envious daughter can't abide being seen alongside her erstwhile elegance. Interestingly, neither woman mentions Little Edie's younger brothers, Phelan and Bouvier.

Having waved off Radziwill and William, Little Edie comes back inside to complain about people who rake up the past. She considers it the cruellest thing a person can do. Big Edie is on the phone to Lois Wright and they chatter away before Little Edie takes over to say how exhausting it has been having people scrutinise them. Radziwill meets a chap outside a windmill. who ungallantly informs her that her father was a ladies' man who had a different woman on his arm each time he stayed in a rented apartment nearby. 

Big Edie sings a song in French, as the camera roves around the cluttered room and past her portrait. She answers the phone while still warbling and tells the caller with droll wit that she is broadcasting. She then tucks into some coffee ice cream, which she says is the best thing she has tasted in her long life and jokes that it might make the camera crew more charming if they risked putting on three ounces to try it. Big Edie gets sidetracked talking about `dead water' that has had all the minerals removed so that it's no fun to bathe in. But she then rants at Little Edie for not giving her a tissue to clean her sticky fingers. They seem to enjoy the bickering and Radziwill opines that they muddled along in their own little bubble, which would seem downright peculiar to anyone looking in from the outside. Yet Beard declares that he felt privileged to have spent time in their home, as it was like going back in time and sampling a bygone age. 

Reel Four opens with Radziwill and her children watching a pair of raccoons sneaking out through a hole in the decking to fetch pieces of bread. Big Edie is in bed and gives Anthony some sunflower mix to feed to them and Little Edie calls it hippie food and mentions something about the raccoons being sick when they ate a cake with icing. 

Little Edie puts on her make-up and keeps a mirror in front of her face. She says that her uncle, Jack Bouvier, had put her off men because he was such a louse and Big Edie opines that she shouldn't have committed incest with him. Little Edie denies this and protests that he was such a womaniser that she lost all respect for him in particular and men in general. Big Edie chides her for buying so much make-up in a fruitless bid to improve her looks and find herself a husband. Once again, there's an edge to the banter, but neither seems overtly put out and they continue to prattle as the camera rolls.

Radziwill comes calling and each Edie complains that she is looking frightful without her lipstick on. Teasingly, Radziwill says they remind her of her father, as he was a vain man. Little Edie hides under a pillow and announces that she is ready to go to Australia. But Radziwill reassures Big Edie that she has brought her daughter up well and she jokes that it's a miracle that she hasn't murdered her yet. They duet on Kurt Weill's `September Song' before the reel ends.

We return to Beard making a Karen Blixen collage on the floor of his Montauk home. He recalls taking the Queen Mary to Britain before meeting the author in Copenhagen and claims that sailing on a liner is infinitely preferable to flying. He doesn't see the Beales as sad, as they had perfected the art of clinging on to the past on their own terms. Captions reveal that the Maysles returned to Grey Gardens after Beard and Radziwill had abandoned their project. Big Edie had died three years later and Little Edie decided to sell the house and move to Florida, where she passed away in 2002. The estate is currently for sale at $20 million. 

There's not much to add in summation, as this is essentially a filmic footnote that will primarily be of interest to those already au fait with the Grey Gardens scene. Olsson edits discreetly to retain the integrity of Radziwill and Beard's imagery, but he fails to explore the way in which the pair worked or how their collaboration with the Maysles siblings broke down. Moreover, he largely leaves viewers to draw any conclusions about the extent to which the Beales were being exploited here or by the Maysles or whether they were egomaniacal exhibitionists grateful for the opportunity to commune with the wider world after their extended periods of solitude. The bookend segments with Beard are a tad self-conscious, but his voiceover provides some useful context. But this stubbornly remains a nostalgic curio rather than a priceless social artifact.

Although rooted in the kind of social policy tract that was produced in the 1930s heyday of the British Documentary Movement, Christopher Ian Smith's New Town Utopia owes much to the city studies of Mark Cousins and would make a fine companion piece to Marc Isaacs's All White in Barking (2007) and Jonathan Meades's BBC film, The Joy of Essex (2013). Yet, while he provides an intriguing record of the changing face of Basildon and coaxes some thoughtful contributions from his interviewees, Smith can be a little evasive in striving to be as objective as possible. Moreover, he is far too reluctant to draw any decisive conclusions or proffer any potential solutions. 

As the camera roves around Basildon's estates, parks and precincts to a sombre piano accompaniment, Jim Broadbent reads part of a speech delivered in the House of Commons by Lewis Silkin on 8 May 1946. As the Minister of Town and Country Planning in Clement Attlee's landslide Labour administration, Silkin had overseen the foundation of 10 new towns within 30 miles of London and he hoped that they would foster a new kind of citizen, who would approach the challenges of rebuilding a war-scarred nation with dignity and pride. 

As Vincent O'Connell, Barry Hayes, Joe Morgan, Penny Betteridge, Ralph Dartford and Rob Marlow recall, there were teething problems, as exiles from the East End came to terms with their new surroundings alongside those who had relocated from rural Essex. But most people were delighted with their spacious houses after living in bombed-out inner-city slums and, over home-movie footage of kids playing and streets coming together for open-air parties, Steve Waters, Phil Burdett, Pat Joyce and Kath Joyce-Banks, Joe Hymas, Stuart Brown, Marc Barnacle and Richard Hawkins wax lyrical about the sense of community that quickly grew up among the new arrivals. 

Standing in a shopping precinct, Ralph recites a pertinent poem about how daily life has changed from the pioneering days to the iPhone era. Over shots of quiet corners of the sanctuary he had helped create, Silkin claims a responsibility to instil in new town dwellers a sense of beauty. Thus, he ensured that the architecture and the civic art exuded a modernism that would inspire residents and the voices off agree that pieces like Maurice Lambert's Mother and Child Fountain (1962) became cherished landmarks. Phil claims they were space-age and too crunchy to belong in a chocolate box village. Indeed, he also avers that Nature should be subservient to the aspirations of humans and that buildings like Brooke House should be feted for rising to the challenge of improving life. 

Yet, for all the diversity of the designs, the estates were created by retired military types who had no experience of living in such conditions. Thus, they overestimated the neighbourliness that would be generated in the various flats and maisonettes, while also failing to see how the alleyways and secluded corners could become haunts for muggers and drug dealers. While Pat complains about the uniformity such housing imposed upon the populace, Vin Harrop counters that the design was less of a problem than the quality of the construction, which resulted in many facilities being torn down within decades of their erection. However, Joe Morgan, who was the Labour council leader when the notorious Five Links estate was opened in 1970 dubbed it `Alcatraz' during the dedication ceremony and film producer Terry Bird jokes that it was no accident that he staged Jason Ford's 2012 horror flick, Community, on the estate.

Musician Mike Parker laments having to move out of the tower block where he had lived for a quarter of a century. He recalls the staircase becoming littered with condoms and needles and how some residents were having a barbecue on the fire escape on the day he moved out. But it soon became apparent that Silkin's hope that the spirit of the slums would bind people together was going to be dashed, as estate residents became territorial and tensions flared up between pubs, as well as gangs advocating different lifestyles. Ölmo Lazarus recites a poem about a punch-up, while Kath recalls that the golden rule about drinking in Basildon pubs was never to look at anybody, as staring always led to trouble. 

Even in a town with a reputation for being tough, however, there were those who sought to create rather than destroy and they found a haven at the Arts Centre and the old Towngate Theatre. Punk proved something of a catalyst, with singers like Alison Moyet and bands like Depeche Mode starting out in local youth clubs and going all the way to Top of the Pops. Vince Clarke first came into contact with a synthesiser through Rob Marlow and we see the video for his single, `The Face of Dorian Gray'. As Phil remembers, there was a DIY ethos about the music scene, but it also had a political element, as bands played at gatherings like Rock Against Racism (as people were always `against' something in this age of protest). 

Silkin hoped that Basildon would be a classless place, but this soon proved to be a pipe dream. Richard Hawkins recalls moving to the town in 1974 and being surprised that it didn't have a railway station. However, few people needed to commute to work, as the industrial estates ringing the town provided employment. Despite the boom, though, Basildon was nicknamed `Moscow on the Thames' and Morgan recalls this militancy promoting political activism, as hundreds attended meetings to air their views or plan rent strikes. But when Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government offered resident the chance to buy their council houses, thousands across the town did. Rather than staying put on their own little castles, however, many sold up and sparked a boom that not only prevented poorer folks from getting on the property ladder, but also depleted the stocks of social housing. 

Interestingly, the majority of those interviewed decry this divisive policy, but no one admits to taking the plunge themselves. Yet, while Morgan ticks off his grandchildren for going to grammar schools and voting Tory after making something of themselves, Terry shamefacedly admits to being a `child of Thatcher' and concedes that she created some of the opportunities that he has been able to seize. But she also presided over the economic shift that saw companies like Ilford, Carreras and Ford's Tractor Unit close down. As the premises were converted into warehouses, the younger members of the workforce decamped to the City and the Loadsamoney mentality began to seep in.

In the midst of such seismic changes, playwright Arnold Wesker was invited to examine the town's shifting dynamics and priorities and Rob recalls taking him to task for downplaying the levels of grassroots artistic activity in his play, Beorhtel's Hill. In one scene, some children ran towards a rainbow and Silkin had hopes that town and country would sit cheek by jowl in his new towns. Basildon's developers separated the industrial from the residential with Gloucester Park and Steve and Penny remember the free facilities that were provided to keep children amused and occupied. But, as the 1980s advanced, such amenities were withdrawn, as the council had to tighten its belt and private sports and drama clubs competed for the patronage of the upper bracket.   

Developers eventually got their hands on Gloucester Park and the lake was drained so that flats could be built. Conversely, places like the Laindon Shopping Centre was allowed to decline and it now stands empty, with one speaker comparing it to something from East Germany in the 1960s. Such has been the decline of Basildon town centre that the only McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets are in retail parks on the outskirts. Ralph, Mike and Steve despair of a council that is more interested in retail and parking lots than culture and Steve has created a puppet called Old Man Stan to create online assaults on the narrow-minded hacks who are unable to see the value of creativity to the wider community.

Vince and Rob hark back to the founding failure to keep family networks together when people were shunted out of the East End. Coupled with a lack of common heritage, this fragmentation of the old order meant that new towns spawned insularity, as newcomers huddled in their little boxes and pined for days gone by. Housewives became particularly cut off and a generation of women became hooked on pills to cure the neuroses caused by new town living. Kath and Pat remember how their painter brother/son Alan turned to drink and Mike, Phil and Steve also admit to seeking that form of oblivion, while others took drugs. 

Over shots of estates shrouded in darkness and mist, Mike reads a poem about broken families and various voices discuss the bad reputation that Basildon has around the country. Most regret the fact that residents are considered irredeemable lowbrows who just want to party and settle for second best and Phil sings a mournful ballad about the stuffing being knocked out of the town, as the camera tours a centre that has long lost the vibrancy its founding fathers had sought to engender. Even the Grade II listed fountain has run dry. 

But the likes of Joe Hymas stayed while others fled and he has remained at the heart of the town's music scene and the likes of Sue Ryder Paget and Tim Williams (who run walking tours) wish that the council would cater for the music fans who come on pilgrimage to the place that nurtured Depeche Mode and Yazoo. As gallery owner Vin insists, art is not dead in Basildon and Shaun Badham shows off the climbing frames he has transformed with glow-in-the-dark paint. Moreover, the spirit of the town continues to flicker and Richard concludes that, while it may have had its faults, the new town experiment was well worth conducting.

Nicely photographed and neatly edited to the strains of Greg Haines's affecting score, this is an accomplished piece of work that consistently recalls such classic documentaries as Arthur Elton and Edgar Anstey's Housing Problems (1935), Humphrey Jennings's A Diary for Timothy (1945) and Jill Craigie's The Way We Live (1946). However, it falls a long way short of their sociological acuity, as Smith ignores issues like the problems inherited from the romanticised East End and the influx of ethnic groups. Indeed, there isn't a single non-white face among the talking heads and this damning absence seriously undermines the film's value and credibility.

The lack of chronological precision also makes it difficult to gauge the town's timescale after the first house was built in 1951. Moreover, Smith overlooks such crucial facets of urban life as sport, religion and transport, while playing down the contribution made by Basildon's bigger firms to the leisure options of their employees and their families. There is also a discomfitingly chauvinist edge to the focus on the working man when there is clearly much to say about the pressures of being a housewife raising a family in less than ideal circumstances. So, while the contributors are genial and perceptive and many of the topics they discuss are scarcely restricted to new town living, their viewpoint is too restricted. Consequently, this risks becoming a showcase for a clutch of local (white, male) performers.