Human interest profiles generally follow a sort of narrative arc in how they present their subjects, as a method of demonstrating to the audience why this person is important, or at the very least why we should care about their trials and tribulations. Who the Fuck is That Guy? is an apt name then for a documentary that is, at least for the most part, completely negligent in building any sort of story around its subject, music executive Michael Alago. We may answer the question of what the fuck that guy’s name is, but we’re never given any reason to give a fuck about him.
On paper, Alago’s life sounds like a pretty interesting one, as he works his way from being a gay Puerto Rican kid who went to a ton of concerts, to being the booking agent at the prominent New York club The Ritz, to working as the executive who discovered the likes of Metallica, White Zombie, and Cyndi Lauper. Director Drew Stone interviews members from each of these musical groups and renders their memories of Alago in simple flash animation, which adds a nice visual flair to the stories that demonstrate the affection these titans of the film industry feel for this man who helped make their careers possible.
However, Stone’s film is much less capable of crafting a coherent narrative of Alago’s life than the individual snippets he portrays do, as he spends a disproportionate amount of time chronicling the New York underground music scene in the 1970s and 1980s, and then only eventually rediscovers Alago as his subject. Alago himself gives a guided tour of relevant locations and events, but for a long time it doesn’t amount to much more than a conflict-free brag, a demonstration of what happened without actually delving into Alago’s ethos or struggles to achieve his position. The film eventually shifts focus to Alago’s struggle with HIV during the height of the epidemic in the gay community, as well as his struggles with alcohol and drug abuse, but they are shoved toward the end of the documentary as a sort of footnote, an emotional punch meant to disguise the emptiness of the film’s first two thirds.
Metal music and queer accomplishment are both passions of this critic, so Who the Fuck is That Guy? should have been an easy sell to me. However, when a filmmaker turns out what amounts to a promotional video that minimizes the actual struggles of its subject in favor of listing his impressive professional contacts, what results is less a piece of informative entertainment for mass consumption than it is a bit of fellatio for the man it supposedly examines. Michael Alago seems like a very nice man, and the stories his friends and family tell of him are amusing anecdotes in their own right. I just wish that his story were told more competently, and then maybe I would be able to answer that titular question.