American Movie (1999) – Chris Smith (Friday’s Finest)

American movie

Hmm, well… technically American Movie isn’t a movie, rather it’s a documentary about a movie that was made. Audiences could be forgiven thinking it’s a ‘mockumentary’ in the style of ‘Spinal Tap‘, but no folks I’m afraid this story is actually real. Perhaps you can remember one time when you were young and held your Dad’s JVC video camera and went about trying to make an actual short film encasing all the cool things you’d seen in cinema. My brother and I did that replicating the Mr Miyagi training scenes in the original Karate Kid film. Well now picture yourself, 15 (or so) years older trying to do the same thing, but this time to ‘wow’ actual audiences in a real cinema by making a real film. Voila – you have American Movie.

IMDB Storyline: On the northwest side of Milwaukee, Mark Borchardt dreams the American dream: for him, it’s making movies. Using relatives, local theater talent, slacker friends, his Mastercard, and $3,000 from his Uncle Bill, Mark strives over three years to finish “Coven,” a short horror film. His own personal demons (alcohol, gambling, a dysfunctional family) plague him, but he desperately wants to overcome self-doubt and avoid failure. In moments of reflection, Mark sees his story as quintessentially American, and its the nature and nuance of his dream that this film explores.

Any movie aficionado should see this film just to grasp the lengths an amateur film buff goes to, to realise his dreams of being a fully fledged filmmaker. Allow me to digress – referring to his film Inside Llewyn Davis, Ethan Coen once said: “It’s more interesting for me as an audience member to see a movie about a loser“.  So if you find that the case, then you will salivate when you see American Movie. Although looking on the positive side Mark Borchardt who is the aficionado filmmaker in American Movie is not entirely distasteful because at least he’s chasing the American Dream. His passion for the industry despite whatever personal impediments or suspect lifestyle choices he makes; he remains an interesting subject to observe – to say the least.

It’s a no-brainer documentary, but an entertaining one. I’ve watched it multiple times and never get bored. Underneath I admire the guy and his dogged tenacity. He’s the least greatest specimen (if I can say that) which makes him so interesting. Its duplicity is jarring because its simultaneously a very funny and sad film.  Like Don Quixote, American Movie presents an often-ignored inefficient aspect of freedom — that people will be drawn toward professions to which they are not particularly well-suited, irrespective of repeated failure.

I don’t normally do this, but below is the trailer of the film which I don’t think detracts from anyone’s enjoyment of wanting to see it because the documentary contains so much more nuance.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Movies and TV
3 comments on “American Movie (1999) – Chris Smith (Friday’s Finest)
  1. badfinger20 says:

    This one is a must…can’t believe I haven’t seen it.

  2. I love Uncle Bill, Mike and Mom.

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Matthew Kick

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