Monday, February 22, 2010

American Movie (1999)

Funny, if overrated doc following a filthy hick, Mark Borschardt, and his portly ex-druggie buddy, Mike Schank, as they try to film and release a dogshit horror movie in order to fund a more serious and ambitious drama. The humor, and cult appeal, of the film reside in the idiosyncrasies and naivete of the two main characters, who are, ostensibly, complete white trash, aside from their resolve and ambition to get a coherent film in the can. They are likable guys, to be sure, but the film does seem to condescend and patronize them, as if the documentary about the film has more merit than the film itself. Alas, the invisible hand of the documentarian is my big peeve with most docs, that seem to have cinematic equivalents of topic and concluding sentences that simply aren't organic to the content. The movie within the film is not goofy enough to make the whole thing a tragedy, or a giant fiasco; we are told that the film exceeded its initial sales projections, and that the filmmakers did film Northwestern, the dream project of Borschardts. But alas, there is nothing on display here that goes beyond mere humor and tentative emotional investment in the dreams of these brave, if misguided self-made filmmakers.

Recommended for fans of humorous documentaries or shitty horror filmmaking. I must say if I do revisit this film, it is for Schank's wonderful, impossible-to-make-up personality which is far more infectious, if more understated, than Borschardt's.

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