This 1999 Grand Jury Prize winner of the Sundance Film Festival tells the intense and humorous story of Mark Borchardt's obsession to make his horror film, Coven. — Genre: Documentary — Rating: R — Release Date: 23-MAY-2000 — ... more »Media Type: DVD« less
Most everyone should have this title on their Wish List. These guys are rather typical of most folks around here. I should know. They only live a few miles away, and I've seen them around town in Menomonee Falls. I've even eaten at the Burger King you see in this film. Have worked with plenty of people like this. You probably have too. An experience like this will ensure you've got a sense of humor. This movie is genius without knowing it is.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jeff V. (burielofmel) from HARRIMAN, TN Reviewed on 3/13/2008...
This was a really good documentary about a guy trying to make a film. In the doc, Mark, the film maker is trying to finish his film COVEN. The disc includes the finished film as a bonus feature. I actually thought his film COVEN had a great look to it.
5 of 8 member(s) found this review helpful.
I Heart Mike Schank
mattyp4 | New York, NY United States | 04/10/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have a confession: I rented this on video as soon as it came out back in 1999 & I hated it. In fact, my friend & I turned it off in the middle of the film. Actually, I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but the real reason is b/c we didn't know we were watching an actual documentary... Looking back on it, I feel like one of those stupid people who went to see The Blair Witch project, threw up, & thought it was real. So I eventually watched this again in one of my film classes. Yes, by then I knew it was real, but I had never felt like giving it that 2nd chance.
Well, upon that second viewing, I quickly came to the realization that this film is amazing!! I can't believe how stupid I was to give up on it before!
As far as documentaries go, American Movie is near-flawless. It's got humor, sympathy, inspiration, old guys eating Polish sausage, you name it- it's there. No really, we laugh at the "characters," but there's actually a really inspiring & uplifting message to it all. It follows the life of one major film buff from Milwaukee who sets out to make a feature film (Northwestern) but becomes sidetracked with funding problems, so he decides to finish up a short horror film (Coven) to sell for profits. The trials & tribulations of Coven's production make up American Movie.
As for the DVD, it's excellent. There are deleted scenes galore, many of which are GREAT! And they're not just throw-away junk scenes, which is always a plus. There are commentary tracks & trailers, but best of all, the mother of all extras is... COVEN. Yes, the 22-minute short film is included in its entirety. I can die happy now.
I saw my friend recently & told her that I not only watched American Movie again (which we vowed never to do), but that I loved it! She then told me how she was "forced" to watch it again for one of her film classes & that she loved it too!! So there's hope for all us imbeciles yet.
Do yourself a huge favor & see this movie if you haven't already done so. And if you watched half of it before & hated it, please give it a second try. Once you loved it, come back & purchase this DVD like me!"
What if Don Quixote lived in Wisconsin and drank schnapps?
C. Burch | San Francisco, CA USA | 03/09/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As I watched Mark Borchardt stumble through the filming of 'Coven', I kept thinking of the Austrian court composer Solieri's line in Milos Forman's Amadeus: "All I ever wanted was to sing to God", laments Solieri, "He gave me that longing, and then made me mute". What do you do with your life when you want to sing, but you are tone deaf? What if you spend far more time dreaming than making your dreams come true? That is the subject of this surprisingly touching and moving documentary. Mark Borchardt is not mute. His muse has whispered in his ear since he was 12 years old, telling him to make movies. Problems with drinking and a stint in the Army have kept him from his love. As the documentary opens, Mark is doing pre-production for a feature-length movie, 'Northwestern'. As you watch Mark meet with production staff and potential actors, you quickly realize that he is hopelessly over his head. Mark is given to long, rambling monologues, where you feel he is trying to throw a net of words over his problems. Eventually Mark sees the handwriting on the wall. He realizes that he cannot start this movie, and decides instead to complete a short film he started several years earlier, 'Coven'. (Mark pronounces it KO-ven, rather than KUH-ven). As the documentary progresses, you are brought into the well intentioned but dysfunctional world of Mark's friends and family. You find yourself wondering about the line between loyalty and co-dependency. What is the difference between supporting a dream and enabling a friend to live in a fantasy world? You see the inhabitants of Mark's world struggle with these questions. Through it all, Mark may stumble, but he holds true to quest of completing Coven. If Mark is quixotic, then his good friend Mike Shank is definitely his Pancho. Mike has been sober for a couple of years, but you can tell he was dinged up a bit in the drug wars. He is so totally without guile, and so completely loyal to Mark, as to be utterly disarming. It is tempting to smirk at these people at the beginning of the film, much less easy to do so by the end. Whatever you think of Mark as a filmmaker, you are moved by his struggle to see his vision completed.Chris Smith could have created a patronizing look at an Auteur with less talent than himself, but he has accomplished much more than that. This story makes you wonder about the dreams of people who are not famous, or glamorous, but still listen to their muse. The touching conclusion of this movie is that there is real nobility in their quixotic quest."
I'd give it ten stars if I could
Joseph Murphy | 04/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've seen lots of Amazon reviews here that mention a feeling of guilt about this film as though the stars weren't throroughly aware of the fact that they are being filmed. Smith and Price weren't exactly sneaking around their subjects with hidden cameras and subterfuge, right? Right. I'm sure whatever humliation the documentary heaped on Mark was (1) no worse than anything he'd already experienced in life from nay-sayers (like his own mother for crying out loud!) and (2) not so bad, considering the end of the film which, in my mind, is one of the most triumphant moments in recent cinema (or cinnamon, if you're asking Uncle Bill).After watching this movie, take a moment and think about your own life. If you could go after your dream with Mark's white-hot intensity, wouldn't you? I would. We all should. The guy's a hero. If you've ever tried to get something 'artsy-fartsy' done in your lifetime. If you've ever thrown away everything else in the pursuit of your one lofty goal in life then you'll love Mark. If you've been gliding through life on someone else's tab or your life revolves around your house, your car and your lawnmower, you'll probably think Mark is a 'loser' without having looked in the mirror lately. Good luck with 'Northwestern' Mark!"
He Wants to Make Films in the Worst Way!
Bruce Cantwell | PORTLAND, OR United States | 06/18/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"American MovieReviewed by Bruce Cantwell (a-movie-to-see.com)Mark Borchardt wants to be a filmmaker, to tell the story of what it means to grow up a poor working (or unemployed) stiff on the Northwest side of Milwaukee. He speaks passionately about hanging out with his friends who drink too much, trying to deaden the nagging thoughts of a bleak future. His film Northwestern will show this bleakness to reveal a glimpse of the human goodness that shines through even the toughest circumstances.But to make his masterpiece, he first needs to sell 3000 copies of a direct-to-video black & white horror movie short entitled Coven. And before he can finish making Coven he has to pry $3000 out of his crotchety, cynical, trailer-living Uncle Bill who's tighter than his Poli Grip seal.Chris Smith's documentary about "the making of" a low budget schlock horror movie is the kind of screwball comedy that Hollywood wishes it could make. Steve Martin tried earlier this summer: Bowfinger (which wasn't bad), just nowhere near as good.Mark Borchardt, a cheesehead scarecrow with a look right out of the early seventies isn't your typical leading man, but he's a hell of a lot more interesting than a Brad Pitt or Keanu Reeves.Smith captures the dynamics of Mark's complex relationship with Coven's 82-year old executive producer Uncle Bill. Coven's score composer, Mike Schank, Mark's former drinking buddy (now sober) explains his involvement in this convoluted enterprise. He likes Mark and because Mark makes movies, he ends up making movies too. Mike's first love is the Wisconsin lottery.Other friends, family and cast members find themselves putting up with Mark's insane, unfocused ambition not because they have any thought of personal gain but because they know it means the world to him.His brothers admit that he has a gift for gab if nothing else. His actors add that he's persistent (Coven takes three years to complete, Northwestern has been in pre-production since the '80s). No one but Mark thinks that he'll be a success. Smith records the film making mishaps with a sense of timing out of This is Spinal Tap but anyone whose been involved with coordinating the logistics of even a class project video will vouch for their veracity.Strictly speaking, American Movie is a tragedy because its protagonist doesn't (and probably never will) make the movie of his dreams. On the other hand, his film about the underlying humanity of Northwest Milwaukee's set-upon residents has already been made. This is it: all the friendship and love and support a man could ask for are demonstrated in this film. On that score, Mark's a lucky man.If you like this, try:The Big Picture Christopher Guest's (This is Spinal Tap) hilarious take on the Independent film scene.Living in Oblivion Steve Buscemi (Fargo) plays a Borchardt-esque director.20 Dates another "documentary" about an ambitious film maker."