Just imagine waking up tomorrow with no memory of today or any other since the day of your birth. Imagine living without a history, without experience, no relationships, no past troubles. Imagine starting your life over again, making a new set of friends, finding new talents and falling in love for the first time. Imagine what it's like to see the world anew. On the 2nd July 2003 Doug Bruce left his apartment on the Lower East Side at about 8pm. No one knew where he was going. No one knew he'd gone. He turned up, 11 hours later, on the New York subway heading to Coney Island. He had no idea who he was. Unknown White Male is the startling story of a man who, for no apparent reason, lost 37 years of life history, who lost every memory of his friends, his family and every experience he had ever known. This true story follows Doug in the hours and months following his amnesia, as he tries to pierce his life back together and has to discover the world anew. The film dramatically ... Written by
How much of our past lives, the thousands of moments we experience, helps to make us who we are? If you took all of these remembrances, these memories, away, what would be left? How much is our personality, our identity, determined by the experiences we have, and how much is already there - pure "us"?
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Assuming the whole thing wasn't a hoax, imaging the luck of being a budding film maker and having your friend suffer from one of the rarest and most bizarre medical conditions, which not only appeals to the public but which is perfect film material. I think Rupert Murray blew his chance, though. All the artistic camera angles and moods he tried to portray were totally unnecessary. Like a good chef knows not to embellish on quality ingredients, so a good film-maker knows not to embellish on a story that can't fail to be interesting. This film managed to achieve uninterestingness, though. For the first half, I could forgive the attempts to capture the mood of somebody coming to terms with retrograde amnesia, with the jaunty camera angles and ambient music, after all it's his first film, and he can be allowed a little pretentious leeway. However, as the film progressed and all we've learnt is what a wonderful life he had (and will have anew) and are subjected to close ups of his beautiful ex-girlfriends smiling and laughing seductively for the camera and close-ups of Douglas smiling gormlessly as he takes in things for the 'first' time, it starts to grate. Ultimately there was incredibly little of substance in a documentary that could have been twice as long and had 10 times the substance throughout. The fact that he comes from such a privileged background and is not short of money, love and support, shouldn't have detracted from how interesting his condition was; but it did, as the film-maker seemed more interested in celebrating the former and much less in investigating the latter. There seemed to be a suspicious and alarming acceptance of his condition from his family and friends. They seemed more interested in looking demure or cool for the camera than asking questions, that most viewers were probably screaming at the television, such as 'Have you checked your bank withdrawals from the few weeks leading up to the amnesia?'
I think Rupert Murray was trying to make two films here and ended up effectively making none. Either make a film about your friend's memory loss, or make a film about beautiful people, with lots of close ups, longeurs and artistry, but don't make them both together.
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