Over in that corner we have ''The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things," a movie opening today based on a memoir recently revealed as sham. And over in this corner we have ''Unknown White Male," a documentary about a young man who has lost his memories that some people are claiming is a fake.
Are some lies more forgivable than others? Perhaps, but let's say for the moment that director Rupert Murray and his subject, Doug Bruce, are on the up and up. Let's say that Bruce did in fact find himself on a Coney Island-bound subway train in July 2003 with no memory of who he was or how he got there; that Murray, his friend growing up in Britain, was a filmmaker with time and a camera on his hands. If so, ''Unknown White Male" is a lucky fluke: an overdirected but fascinating experience that bristles with open-ended paradoxes about identity and fate.
Bruce turned himself in to Brooklyn police and spent a few terrifying days in the system before shards of his past began to swim into focus. (A video interview shot a week after he'd been found shows him quaking with emotion.) A telephone number in his pocket led to a woman he'd dated, who filled in the particulars: Bruce's name, his Manhattan address, the fact that he'd been a successful stockbroker before quitting to follow his muse as a photographer.
While Bruce's head was sore, there turned out to be no clear medical reasons for what was diagnosed as retrograde amnesia. Daniel L. Schacter, former chairman of the Harvard psychology department, is brought on to parse the distinctions between types of memory and explain that Bruce has lost his ''semantic memories" -- those that relate to personal experience.
What this translates into is a portrait of a man rediscovering his life for the first time -- in Murray's narration, ''seeing the world with the eyes of a newborn baby and appreciating it with the mind of an adult." Every meal becomes an adventure, every change in the weather a miracle. The Rolling Stones are no longer an oldies act. There are no cliches -- everything's original.
Friends and family, however, become objects of apprehension. When Bruce returns to England, you can see the uncertainty in his face: They love a man he has never met. ''His past belonged to everyone but him," says Murray. Everyone agrees that the new Bruce is no longer the arrogant overachiever he used to be. He's Doug 2.0, shaggier and nicer, and his new girlfriend isn't sure she wants the old memories coming back. (By film's end, they haven't.)
The picture that emerges is of a young man blessed by fortune and then doubly blessed by having his mind wiped clean, and if it's true, there's a sweet metaphysical irony here worthy of a Borges story.
But maybe it's not true. Your BS-ometer may go off several times during the film -- cameras are conveniently present at key moments, and Murray directs with the visual artsiness of an advertising guy getting his teeth into a serious subject. The metrosexual gorgeousness of everyone onscreen works against them, but that's not really their fault, poor things. The more one learns about the story, though, the odder it smells: There are no news accounts from when Bruce was first found, for instance.
Are Murray and Bruce perpetuating a hoax? Or -- an alternate possibility -- did Doug Bruce bail out of a stressful life by pretending he'd cleared his cranial hard-drive? If the latter, that would make a darkly intriguing movie of its own. The ''Unknown White Male" that Murray has made asks profound questions. They're just not necessarily the right ones.
Ty Burr can be reached at email@example.com.