All Is Not As It Seems in Tricky, Twisty Doc I Touched All Your Stuff

touched

I Touched All Your Stuff
Directed by Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani
Opens August 21 at Cinema Village

The subject of Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani’s documentary I Touched All Your Stuff is former Olympia IT guy Chris Kirk, who won fifteen minutes of fame in 2004 when a housesitting friend covered nearly every surface of his apartment in aluminum foil. But Stuff concerns much more than this adorable incident, which has nothing on the romantic obsession and lies that consumed Kirk once he left the country in search of adventure in Bogotá, Colombia.

Where to begin?

Discovered during Bühler and Mariani’s initial research into Americans incarcerated abroad, Kirk expresses in several voiceovers his existential longing to escape the nine-to-five world: Colombia offered exoticism and “confusion,” as did “V.,” the mixed-race beauty with whom Kirk fell in love. V. turned out to possess several lives, with Kirk offering relative stability as she used other men for money and other men possibly used her to traffic drugs in and out of the US. From a South American prison, Kirk unspools his tale of infatuation, suspicion, jealousy, heartbreak, and exploitation in a disarming and almost naively jovial manner, forcing the viewer to ponder how this wide-eyed innocent (one friend compares him to Pinocchio) became so corrupted. Meanwhile, Bühler and Mariani retrieve Kirk’s hard drive to illustrate the saga with songs, videos, photos, and correspondence from personal documents.

Yet not all is as it seems (i.e., partial spoiler alert): Stuff eventually reveals V. as a red herring Kirk employs to draw attention away and deflect blame from the unsavory activities that landed him in prison. By basing their film on Kirk’s fabrications rather than creating distance between the two, Bühler and Mariani universalize their subject: since no other point of view counters Kirk’s, the particulars of his sociopathy—why exactly he chose the life of a mendacious criminal—are sacrificed for a vague meta-commentary on the falsity of all storytelling, even that of documentary. Thus the filmmakers choose cleverness over complexity: exploring the inextricable link between narrative and deception while also understanding an individual’s pathological gravitation toward duplicity remains the domain of far more multi-layered and inventive movies—including F For Fake, the oft-overlooked Orson Welles masterpiece to which Stuff has been unrealistically compared.

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