American Movie: The Making of Northwestern review by Tom Blain

Docu-comedy

About 15 minutes into watching American Movie I began to wonder if it was real or not. I had read it was a 'documentary', but it seemed to funny to be real. It seemed to closely connected to Best In Show and This Is Spinal Tap. Both had the same documentary style of camera work. Both had rich characters that spoke what little mind they had in front of the camera. However after 5 minutes of INTENSE research (and the recollection that I have seen the main character and his best friend on Letterman more than once) I soon learned that this in fact was a real documentary. That made it even more entertaining.

The gangly rough-around-the-edges hero, Mark Borchardt is the focal point of the film. He is a thirty year-old high school drop out still living with and off of his parents. Mark is driven by his dream (as it has been many other peoples dreams) to make films. But Mark will stop at nothing to do so. His energy and zeal make up for his lack of common sense or any sort of education. He is truly passionate about it, and for that the man deserves our applause.

Northwestern is the name of the film he wants to make (it appears to be about desolation and drinking in the Midwest, something Mark knows quite a bit about) but first he must wrap up his 3-year project: a 35-minute horror film Coven. Most of us owning a dictionary would pronounce the title cuh-ven but Mark claims it is coe-ven because why would I want to make a movie that rhymes with oven? The film was created with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, and Dawn of the Dead in mind so it is full of senseless violence. The way he sees it, he needs to sell 3,000 units of this film in order to pull off his white-trash opus, Northwestern.

The whole film is put together on a shoestring budget (beer is not only an expense but a necessity), and filmed with many of his friends. The most memorable of friends is his best friend Mike Schank (yes its pronounced SHANK). Speaking of Spinal Tap, Mike Schank is very reminiscent of Tap keyboardist Viv Savage. Mike always has a jolly blank look on his face and little to say. Whatever mind he did have has been long since washed away by alcohol, marijuana, and LSD abuse. Watching Mike in action is worth the price of a DVD rent alone.

At times it is hard to remember you are watching a true-to-life documentary. The characters seem to be so bizarre and such complete loser that they cant possibly be real. But that is where all of the comedy lies. Beyond the comedy there is the story of perseverance and one determined human being who most people probably wouldnt the benefit of the doubt. In the end, Mark finishes and premiers Coven in a Wisconsin theatre. Its evident by his effort shown in this film that he may even finish his next.




7 out of 10 Jackasses
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