Directors/Writers: Maíra Bühler, Matias Mariani
Brazil Documentary 89min
Suspension of disbelief is both the theme and challenge of I TOUCHED ALL OF YOUR STUFF (TOQUEI TODAS AS SUAS COISAS), the latest documentary from Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani, in which a self-confessed computer geek from Seattle tells the outlandish autobiographical tale of amour fou that landed him in a São Paulo prison on drug trafficking charges. The film world-premiered in the International Competition at the 25th edition of FIDMarseille.
Chris Kirk takes a seat before the tripod-fixed camera with pious contentment etched upon his face. His is to be a self-told anecdote, one containing unthinkable levels of gullibility and/or self-deceit—though as is hinted at repeatedly here, to be on the receiving end of romantic attention can be, for a guy like Kirk, completely intoxicating. It was through his amorous involvement with ‘V.’, a Japanese-Colombian woman he met in Bogota in 2004, that he came to be imprisoned. He previously told the story last year, on a podcast for a website where ‘ordinary guys become extraordinary men’, and the filmmakers here are less interested in the drug-trafficking charges than the emotional extremes Kirk willingly put himself through in pursuit of a happy-ever-after with the ever-elusive V.
A cautionary tale about the complex allures and perils of self-destruction (bafflement was “a large part of what was so intriguing…”), I TOUCHED ALL OF YOUR STUFF unfolds in a digressionary manner that creates an air of aura around V. and defers acknowledgement of her connection to drugs for a good forty or so minutes. Chapter one—it all started with the hippos—sees Kirk jetting to Colombia to see Pablo Escobar’s illegally-imported hippopotamuses. As a friend notes, Kirk was “sort of like Pinocchio—he’s the last innocent guy in the world… he hasn’t been corrupted yet.”
Pity, then, that he met V., who by all accounts left Kirk’s friends in Seattle “profoundly underwhelmed” while drawing in our blameless puppet for a prolonged period of torment and an eventual kick in the gut. Her semblance to a femme fatale is unquestionable: a noirish mystery surrounds her long before Kirk reveals he discovered the password to her email account was “mentira” (“to lie”). The question is, when an appreciably deceitful person/character such as V. remains unavailable for questioning (she’s limited here to an eerie photograph at the beach), how does one’s own logic hold up?
On this front, to their credit, Bühler and Mariani probe their subject, implying distrust for this implausibly fine storyteller whose anecdotal charm relies on such conscious self-distancing. In the latter stages of the film, at the point at which the love story turned in real life to a more nightmarish scenario, Kirk recounts how he pieced together conflicting threads, thanks to instant-messaging chats with his lover’s other male contacts across the continent. Though there’s something compellingly addictive in the narration, it’s a pity that the filmmakers allow this sequence to dominate; other questions go unasked.
Instant-messaging chats are rarely done well in films, and the staged conversations here confuse rather than entice. At a certain point, clarity is required from a film so open to accusations of disingenuousness. Kirk was present at the world-premiere, which suggests his final act decision to violate his parole and skip town to Uruguay had few legal ramifications. But suspicions persist… perhaps tellingly, the film takes its name from a post-script left on the post-it note that Kirk discovered in his own home, when a pal covered the vast majority of his belongings and interior in foil while he was away on vacation. That is, the film’s title is named after a prank. MICHAEL PATTISON
FID RUNS FROM 1-7 JULY IN MARSEILLE, SOUTH OF FRANCE. Other reviews from the festival are here