Sunday, 29 November 2015

American Movie & Demon Lover Diary

Just fresh from a screening of the 1999 documentary American Movie and for any independent film makers out there reading this, your courage, dedication and sacrifice is duly noted and appreciated. Chris Smith's film chronicles Wisconsin film maker Mark Borchardt's herculean, sometimes agonizing task of completing his short film Coven ("It's pronounced "COE-ven", man") to raise finance for his feature length debut, Northwestern, and along the way the documentary ponders the big question that all struggling artists must confront at one point or another: to doggedly pursue the dream or to move on in a new direction. A quick check of the Internet Movie Database suggests that Borchardt, 16 years after completing Coven (and a music video in 2007) is still chasing the white whale that is The Great American Movie - a 90min Horror film entitled Scare Me is currently in the works. For his determination alone (and on the strength of Coven, some considerable talent it must be said) I sincerely wish him all the best.

Watching American Movie put in mind the 1980 film Demon Lover Diary, a feature length fly-on-the-wall documentary about the making of 1977 Horror film The Demon Lover... Predating American Movie by two decades (and in some respects This Is Spinal Tap and Living In Oblivion), Joel DeMott's film is a smart, funny, sad and tragic account of The Demon Lover's doomed production which was hamstrung by a disorganized shooting schedule, two pompous yet clueless co-directors, irritable actors, and of course perilous financing - one of the film's directors was mortgaged to the hilt, while the other was using compensation money he received for losing a few fingers in an industrial “accident”. During the course of the documentary tensions mount, tempers flare, and friendships are stretched well past breaking point - the film concludes with the Diary's author Joel DeMott and her boyfriend Jeff Kreines (The Demon Lover's besieged cameraman) quitting the production in fear of their lives as the frustrated co-directors discharge some guns borrowed from their friend Ted Nugent (?) Elsewhere, DeMott tempers the bitterness of the shoot with the occasional moment of levity, like the make-up artist explaining his impossibly convoluted love-life, and at one point DeMott steals a lovely moment of romance between a young starlet and a crew member during yet another production stoppage... To the best of my knowledge Demon Lover Diary is not available thru official channels, but a rather rough-looking, lo-fi copy was once available on youtube, and given the film's rarity, was entirely watchable but it's since been taken down. As for The Demon Lover, the film against all odds was finished, complete with a cameo appearance from Gunnar Hansen (unpaid apparently), but this truly dreadful film is best avoided...

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