I Touched All Your Stuff is a documentary whatsit acutely aware of the inherent performance people put into social discourse to maintain appearances. Chris Kirk, the subject of Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani’s alternately eerie and maddening film, is an affable and engaging raconteur—even though he’s being interviewed in the grungy Brazilian prison where he’s incarcerated. Bühler and Mariani aren’t interested in exploring how this seemingly good-natured American came to be jailed in another country, and, as the directors early on juxtapose moments of Kirk with scenes of his hometown friends describing how exceptional a person he is, the question quickly becomes an afterthought. Instead, the filmmakers focus on the discomfort one feels when a longtime friend behaves in a way they’re unaccustomed to, with the film taking on a free-associative aesthetic that suggests it was projected from a disoriented person’s subconscious.
Kirk had a relatively successful IT career in Olympia, Washington when, as one does, he became intrigued with a lifestyle he wasn’t living, and suddenly moved to Bogotá, Colombia. There, Kirk met a beautifully exotic yet mysterious woman, identified in the film simply as V., and their tumultuous romance had Kirk oddly yearning to hang onto her, even after he discovered the dubious activities that caused her often bizarre social behavior. But this is according to the story Kirk tells throughout the doc, and coming after sequences involving friends likening Kirk to Pinocchio, and after a brief acknowledgement of his fervent fascination with the art of the con, it becomes increasingly difficult to discern where reality ends and potential fabrication begins for the man. His paramour doesn’t defend the stories of her alleged drug dealing and having various boyfriends around the world, since she never appears on screen; the only time V. is seen is in a grainy photograph and obscured by low light, as if she were a shadow of a fading memory.
Given that Bühler and Mariani also include snippets of Kirk’s own computer hard drive, the contents of which only further the strangeness of the man’s story, I Touched All Your Stuff can frustrate in its rigid adherence solely to his side of the story (only a series of old instant-message conversations between V. and her boyfriends corroborates her secret life). But this is ultimately the point, and as V. is essentially only a figure obfuscated through Kirk’s account, the same can be said about him in terms of what his friends reveal about him. Kirk is alternately described as a model Olympia citizen and reckless Bogotá party animal, and his charismatic, chameleon-like presentation of himself comes to feel increasingly rehearsed as the film progresses. No one may ever know who the real Chris Kirk is, and as the film moves through a subdued, elliptical ending replete with oneiric imagery, Bühler and Mariani elegantly articulate that discovering qualities in people we would never expect can feel like a dream from which we wish to awake.