Films Showing

American Movie

American Movie

American Movie

1999 / 107min / 35mm



Between 1995 and ’97, Smith stuck to Milwaukee would-be auteur Mark Borchardt, chronicling Borchardt’s efforts, with the help of his best friend, Mike Schank, to complete a short horror film, Coven. Borchardt is a heavy drinker mired in debt who lives with his parents, and by no means a proven talent, but Smith’s sympathy for his floundering fellow filmmaker is abundantly evident in every frame, and while Smith mines the travails of no-budget filmmaking for comedy gold—Borchardt and Schank make a great double-act—a sense of tender camaraderie suffuses the film. You’ll never pronounce “Coven” without a long “O” again.

Movies about making movies—there’s this theory that “Hollywood,” or more specifically the Academy, is in love with movies about itself, movies steeped in nostalgia for a gilded age of filmmaking and exhibiting a certain kind of high glamour and self-congratulation. This documentary, by Chris Smith, is the antithesis of that nostalgia or idealized vision of the work of making movies. Though the amateur filmmakers at the center of the film are naïve about movie making, Smith never conspires with the viewer over their heads—he takes them and their impulse toward art-making seriously, and respects the absolute drive of Borchardt
—Emma Cline