Last Friday, I touted “Battle in Heaven” as a movie that needed to be seen on the silver screen to be appreciated, and needed to be seen on opening weekend. Judging from the film’s $10,000-plus per-theater average, other people had the same idea. Now this weekend, I urge people to see Rupert Murray’s “Unknown White Male” — for slightly different reasons. It’s a fascinating documentary, of course, but it’s also likely to be the last theatrical release for Wellspring, a company that many in the indie community championed. (For evidence, just check out fellow iW blogger Tom Hall’s impassioned elegy or indieWIRE’s must-read farewell today.)
I’ll offer my own analysis of the Weinstein/Genius shutdown of Wellspring in a Village Voice article next week, but for now, I’d like to see “Unknown White Male” break out at the box office and serve as glaring vindication for all of Wellspring’s soon-to-be-retired employees that what they were doing was justified, necessary AND commercially viable.
Here is what I wrote about the film for a recent film festival’s program guide.
“On July 3rd, 2002, Doug Bruce lost his mind. A successful British stockbroker with a posh loft in New York City, Bruce woke up one night on a subway train bound for Coney Island with no memory of who he was or how he got there. In this riveting portrait, filmmaker Rupert Murray retraces the terror, confusion, and exhilaration of his friend’s sudden bout with starting-over. After enduring a state of panic in a Brooklyn police station and the teary-eyed relief of finally being recognized by someone, Bruce sets out to rediscover himself. But he doesn’t exactly relish what he finds: a cocky Wall Street trader out of touch with what’s important. Using a videocamera to recreate his personal identity, Bruce records his experiences anew; everything from seas to snowfalls, fireworks to exotic foods fills him with a child-like rush of excitement. But old friends and family members remain at a distance as Bruce struggles with the ultimate existential crisis: who am I? As thought provoking as it is poignant, “Unknown White Male” is a profound testament to the humbling mysteries of the human mind.”
And since I’ve already seen “Unknown White Male,” I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and see another film that would have been my runner-up for the weekend: Austrian director Michael Glawogger’s “Workingman’s Death.” Reading the reviews (“majestic portrait of shit work!” and “beautifully lensed by Wolfgang Thaler and scored by avant-gardist John Zorn”), it definitely sounds like a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen and I fully intend to do just that.