UNKNOWN WHITE MALE (Rupert Murray). Screens Wednesday (March 8) at the Bloor Cinema as part of Doc Soup. 88 minutes. See Indie & Rep Film listings for details. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
New Yorker Doug Bruce finds himself on the subway in July 2003 without a clue about who he is. Scantily dressed and carrying only a backpack, the 35-year-old is apparently experiencing the rarest form of amnesia, leaving him completely devoid of any memory of his life or himself. The premise of Unknown White Male , the final film in this year's Doc Soup series, is compelling. But many of its events -- like Bruce beginning a video journal a few days into his amnesia -- come across as too convenient. As he fails to convince me that he has amnesia, I start wondering, Is this a doc or a mock?
Discovering that he's a successful stockbroker turned photo student who owns a large Manhattan loft and doesn't need to work, Bruce is able to arrange trips to Europe to meet relatives living in Spain and France,and to visit old mates in England. But he's uncannily distant during these re-connection scenes, as if he's bored, and the documentary investigation of his former self quickly runs out of steam.
Both subject and filmmaker (director Rupert Murray was a friend) tread the surface of Bruce's medical condition, avoiding any deeper search for emotional reference points from his past. Bruce remains altogether nonchalant about his medical state and finally admits he prefers not to get his memory back.
Bruce lacks the authenticity documentary characters require. Far too often he apears to pretend to feel extreme confusion or awe in scenes that seem overacted and false. When a friend recalls his telling her "I just discovered this great band -- the Rolling Stones!" it feels contrived.
Unknown White Male is presented as truth, but Bruce's amnesia comes off feeling like fiction.