Unknown White Male

"Excellent"

Unknown White Male Review


In many cases of modern cinema, myth becomes marketing for movies. It worked for The Blair Witch Project when there was a myth that it had all really happened, and it worked for The Brown Bunny when it was discovered that Chloe Sevigny really gave director/writer/star Vincent Gallo a blowjob on screen. Those are extreme cases, but a solid year before Brokeback Mountain came out, we heard rumors that there was a scene where Jake Gyllenhal and Heath Ledger had sex. With Rupert Murray's Unknown White Male, the idea hits another extreme: Instead of admitting that the film is indeed a fraud, as the people behind Blair Witch did eventually, Murray is steadfast in the fact that this is a documentary, nothing mock about it.

In the summer of 2003, a man lost his identity within a 35 hour spread of time. He woke up on a subway in Coney Island with summer clothes on and a backpack over his shoulder. After turning himself into the police (and subsequently, Coney Island Hospital), the man eventually was identified as Doug Bruce, by an ex-girlfriend and her mother. Doctors were interviewed and expertly explained that Doug had an extremely rare type of amnesia called retrograde amnesia. Slowly, he began to re-learn things about his family, friends and life in general. Murray documents the first year or so of this recovery.

The clinical information from psychologists, philosophers, and doctors is endlessly fascinating, but the film finds its heart in the moments of discovery. Along with Murray's work, the film uses footage that Bruce filmed himself as he was discerning his past and the small things that we might forget about. In the film's most sincere moment, Doug witnesses snow falling and is lit up with excitement. He goes downstairs to take a handful of it, squeezes it until it becomes compacted and simply says, "Oh, I get it." In moments like this, we see the initial wonder of discovery and the subtle realization of practicality.

After getting the basics back, Bruce feels comfortable enough to return to London and be reintroduced to his old friends. Between pints, champagne and fancy food, it's obvious that Doug connects to these people but doesn't care about them, because he has forgotten the moments that bound them. When his friend's wife (the mother of his godson) hugs him and begins to cry, Bruce is completely calm and offers to walk her back to her flat. He also falls in love with an Australian girl, who believes him to be without fault as far as love goes and without the memory of any past relationships, she might be right (Eternal Sunshine, anyone?).

If Unknown White Male is a fraud, it's one of the best and easily the most convincing, and Bruce would have to be an utterly mind-blowing performer. But also, everyone in the film would have to be as well to a certain extent. In the eyes of his family and friends, there is the unmistakable glint of both re-evaluating Doug's past and deciphering the new Doug. Within these moments, we feel the measured take of a life abruptly re-envisioned by its own participant, before the chalkboard dust even settles on the floor.

Where's Waldo?



Unknown White Male

Facts and Figures

Run time: 88 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 1st January 2005

Distributed by: Wellspring Media

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Fresh: 56 Rotten: 20

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Rupert Murray

Producer: Beadie Finzi

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