Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Funny 'American Movie' Also Sad

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Funny 'American Movie' Also Sad

Article excerpt

You want to make a movie, huh? OK, but first you have to watch American Movie, a deadpan, often agonizingly funny documentary that follows a stringy-haired Midwesterner's attempt to make movies on a shoestring.

It's actually his uncle's threadbare shoestring. His ancient, barely coherent uncle, who lives in a trailer and grumbles about handing out more cash to his nephew -- even if he's promised the movie's opening line and a credit as "executive producer."

American Movie -- now at the Pablo 9 in Jacksonville Beach -- follows filmmaker Mark Borchardt and his dazed and confused friend, Mike Schank, as Borchardt tries to make his coming-of-age film, Northwestern.

They're characters. Think of them as a real-life Wayne and Garth, only more so.

Mark is verbal, bright, mostly indefatigable. He runs the show, and is utterly convinced that he's chasing the American dream -- it doesn't matter that he drives a junker, still lives with his mom and works nights in a cemetery.

Shaggy-haired Mike, meanwhile, is newly weaned from an apparently heavy regimen of drugs, but still seems to feel the effects. He's practically non-verbal but seems awfully sweet. Most of the time he stands there, awaiting a cue from Mark, occasionally playing his guitar (which makes up the movie's soundtrack) and buying scratch-off lottery tickets.

"I won $50 on a lottery ticket today," he confides to the documentary filmmaker. "But I don't want these guys to know, otherwise they'd try to borrow money from me."

Borchardt's dream movie, Northwestern, will be a personal film about young men much like him, whose early years seemed to consist of making a few homemade splatter films in between drinking and getting high.

But it's clear there's no money left for Northwestern, so Borchardt figures he first has to finish a movie he's already begun: Coven, a black-and-white gore-fest inspired by his favorite movie of all time, Dawn of the Dead.

Borchardt thinks he can probably sell 3,000 copies of the video of Coven -- which will get him enough money to pay back Uncle Bill and make Northwestern.

Coven seems to consist of black-robed cultists dragging people through a swamp, busting the windows of junk cars and ramming an unfortunate actor's head into a kitchen cabinet, again and again and again (the door's supposed to break, but it's taking its time about it). …

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