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American Movie review

What is it with the latest batch of cinema-released documentaries? In the last few months we've had the Oscar-winning One Day In September, the oddly touching Beyond The Mat and now this, a brutally honest and often hilarious account of one man's quest to make the great American movie.

It could so very easily have been a hilarious character assasination of wannabe director Mark Borchardt. With his weedy frame, jam jar glasses and tendency to use big words he clearly doesn't fully understand, lesser film-makers would have simply taken the piss. Yet, after spending years in the presence of the guy, the makers of American Movie chose instead to sieve through 70 hours of footage and discover the motivation of some-one who truly believes he can make a great movie in the backwater that is Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

That Borchardt is a hugely motivated film-maker isn't in doubt, but what's surprising is to see how he throws himself into his project despite being so lacklustre about everything else. There's true tragedy in the fact that not even his own family rate his life which has, to date, resulted in a couple of children from a failed relationship, a job sweeping leaves in the local cemetery, a spell in the army and 15 years of alcoholism.

All of which would be terribly depressing if it wasn't balanced with some of the most gut-bustingly hilarious scenes to splurge onto the screen since South Park. For all his failings, Mark and his chemically befuddled companion Mike are comedy magnets; quite simply, funny stuff happens around them. From their nonsensical views about life in general to their hap-hazard shooting schedules they're very, very amusing. And, although American Movie only hints at the crushing terribleness of a film written, directed and starring Mark Borchardt, it chooses instead to revel in the fact that he did it. He made a movie. And that's more than can be said for most of us.

A rich, fascinating insight into boringly normal life in Middle America, which somehow manages to serve up tragedy and comedy in equal measures, and prove that even the most ordinary people can provide extraordinary entertainment.

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Available platformsMovie