[box cover]

American Movie

When you first see him, Mark Borchardt, the subject of American Movie: The Making of Northwestern, Chris Smith and Sarah Price's documentary account of one young man's two year efforts to finish a 40-minute horror short called Coven, you can't believe that his guy with the heavy metal t-shirts and the effusive personality is for real. But he is. And on the audio commentary track Borchardt is even more himself — bossy, self-obsessed, desperate, cajoling, and even at times legitimately embarrassed at his old behavior. However, the commentary will probably be the first time that most people will have heard the director and the producer, and they come across thoughtful, considerate, and truly affectionate toward Borchardt, This is important because it is easy to get the impression that the film is mocking its subjects, for in attempting to capture the humor inherent in almost any filmmaking situation, Smith and Price are not always successful in avoiding the impression that they were deliberately focusing on the bad luck of the set, rather then just sharing in the humor of the moment. Price and Smith spent four years first shooting, then editing, the film, and their intimacy with Borchardt and his family is usually evident, especially from the commentary, but there is a risk that viewers will assume that the duo are profiling a second-rate John Waters, a low budget filmmaker deliberately trying to make bad films. But by the end, when Smith shows us black and white footage of Borchardt's work-in-progress Northwestern, which is the film Borchardt really wants to make, you realize that this American moviemaker has real talent hidden behind the bravado and despair. The standard Academy ratio transfer (1.33:1) is fine and clean, and the disc also comes with the completed Coven, 22 extra scenes, and trailer. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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