Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Unknown White Male

I was thrilled by the teaser we watched in class, and when Netflix finally brought it to my mailbox I was a little more disheartened. Mostly, it was just slower than I anticipated.

Overall, I liked the director's storytelling approach. Beginning with the recount of Doug's first amnesiatic moments on the train and in the hospital was captivating. The informative interruptions on how memory functions and types of memory felt a little disruptive in the beginning, however, and I wished we could continue on with the story. (In fact, as a general note overall, I felt we could do with a little less talk on memory. Most of it was helpful, but not all of it was critical to the story and got a little cumbersome).

One of the joys of this piece is to watch Doug's footage. This authentic POV footage is perfect in capturing the emotions he felt as he experienced the world anew--even in his handheld shaky style and his voice-overs describing all the things in his immediate surroundings that still seem to befuddle him. This footage is great.
However, I also think the director had great observational footage. We truly felt the awkwardness of Doug meeting his family at the airport. We truly felt the awkwardness of Doug meeting up with his friends. We were present for a lot of huge events that were very meaningful to the audience.
Of course... it does make me wonder if any of it was reenacted (when did the director meet up with Doug to make the doc? if it was only for the friend segments, then the family stuff was faked).

The interviews were well-conducted, and well placed.
Likewise, the follow-up footage from "x many months later" or "years later" was another crucial part of the story that I'm glad the director told. We needed and wanted as much continuance as he could give us.

One part of the film I felt was distracting was actually the director's need to talk about how hard it was for him. I felt the director himself could have been cut entirely from the film. We could've received all the same sentiment and emotion on how hard it was for the friends and family through the interviews with Pete, Marina, etc -- and didn't need the director's moody shots of himself or narrative. It was an important lesson for me on navel-gazing. That's exactly what I felt like the director was doing. And although his story fit in exactly into the narrative as a whole, and his thoughts were echoed by others in the piece -- it just felt whiny whenever it came from behind the camera.

Overall, I thought the piece was entertaining, informative, and very emotionally connecting. It was well-shot and well-done and well-worth my time -- this one even sucked my husband in, though he wasn't sure he wanted to watch all of it with me!