I watched 'American Movie' last night for the first time in many years, I must've still been a teenager the last time I saw it. It was a very different experience because as a kid I kind of looked up to Mark for his passionate, go getter attitude. His drive to make films really inspired me, because even though he worked a dead end job and had a mountain of debt, he still saw it as his ticket out. Everyone involved with the production felt like they were part of something bigger in their ordinary town, the movies gave them a purpose, however fleeting that may have been. And the fact it was all being filmed for a documentary must've really made it feel like "things were happening", and they DID happen! It's the funniest documentary of all time if you ask me.
Now, I'm approaching 26. You know, that pivotal year when QT made Reservoir Dogs and PTA did Boogie Nights? I couldn't identify with Mark more in his plight, and being a little grown up I felt like I finally read the film for how it's supposed to be presented. It's a tragic comedy, Mark never went on to be known for anything more than this, for which in large part he's acting like a complete asshole. Until this year
he hasn't had a film in production since 'Coven'. His uncle GAVE him $50,000 in his will and he still couldn't make 'NorthWestern' happen. Uncle Bill is undoubtedly the best part of the movie, by the way. He's a total counter to everything Mark's about. His words are some of the most truthful in the movie, because they're untainted by Mark's delusional thinking. There's an added gravitas to him saying "I don't believe in this," "This isn't my dream" when you consider that he died the year after this film was made and Mark's subsequent lack of career in filmmaking. The biggest gift Mark could've repaid him with was involving him in 'American Movie'. Here's a humble, midwestern guy, widowed, just waiting to die in his trailer, and now he's forever immortalized in this movie as the barometer of common sense. In a way, I wish that Mark would've focused more of his energies on doing a documentary about Bill in his last days, he seems really interesting but we don't learn too much about him over the course of this movie, and Mark's interactions with him are pure gold. He's hustling him at every turn and Bill can sniff it all out.
There's something so perfect about how this documentary came together. Everyone in it seems like such a thought out character, and some parts are so damn funny it's hard to believe they weren't written. I couldn't help but see parallels to the 'Non-Fiction' segment of 'Storytelling', where the question is always looming of whether Giamatti's character 'respects' his subjects or not. Chris Smith is clearly staying out of the way with any filmmaking input and constantly giving Mark enough rope to hang himself, but at the end of the day he got to be the star of his own movie! Isn't that what he always wanted? From his IMDB page, this was obviously a wake up call that his place was in front of the camera, not behind it.
I want to put together some clips so you can all share in my delight. Just a really poignant and hilarious film that I certainly recommend a rewatch of, or a watch if you haven't yet!