I Like Killing Flies (USA; 80 min.)


directed by: Matt Mahurin
documentary
I Like Killing Flies
 
Bruce says: "I LIKE KILLING FLIES is an engaging character study. Kenny Shopsin is an original. He is never without an opinion or ever at a loss for words. He refers to himself as an endangered species, a closet intellectual. Kenny and his wife Eve had a unique restaurant for 32 years at the corner of Bedford and Morton Streets in New York’s West (Greenwich) Village. The restaurant is a cross between a coffee shop and a diner. The deco is kitsch, 'a living piece of folk art,' as Kenny explains it. Toys, candies, home made signs and objets trouves can be found everywhere.

"The menu has over 900 items. Many are variations on a theme but the sheer size is awesome, not to mention eclectic and bizarre. Where else could you find menu items like Blisters on My Sisters and Barbecued Banana Split? Restaurant hours are approximately 8AM to 3PM. Eating at Shopsins has never been easy. Many customers get thrown out. Kenny’s philosophy is that 'new customers have to prove to me they are OK to feed.' He is not without integrity, however. When a roach is found in a customer’s soup, Kenny feels responsible and incompetent.

"The building that houses the restaurant is sold in 2002. The new landlord suggests they try a one year lease. 'Try it for a year and see if we like each other.' After a contentious battle, Kenny claims he already knows the answer and decides it is time to close up shop and move on. He has found a space where The Magic Carpet, a restaurant two blocks away, is going out of business. I’m not sure that a two block move qualifies as 'moving on' but in many ways these particular two blocks could be two thousand miles. The new eating area is spacious and the new kitchen is several times the size of the original Shopsins kitchen. With big picture windows on Bedford and Carmine Streets, the place is light and airy. On the last day at the old place, first-timers arrive and are told 'This is our last day and we are not taking any new customers.'

"While we actually get to see some of the physical move, this film consists mostly of talking heads: Kenny, Eve, their five children and selected customers. Supposedly there has not been a family consensus on whether the film should have national distribution. Three of the children are willing to talk freely in front of the camera; two appear more self conscious and disinterested in the project. Eve died in 2003. She is fondly remembered in the film

"This delightful documentary hits close to home. I live about eight blocks from the original Shopsins and ten blocks from the new one. I’ve eaten in both restaurants on several occasions. Unlike quite a few of the customers in the film, I never was thrown out. A good friend once left the restaurant because no one ever bothered to wait on his table. Subtle hint? 4 cats"

This film was shown as part of the 2004 Woodstock Film Festival.

 

Chris says: "You've probably already heard lots of praise about this simple, beautiful film, and get ready to hear a lot more over the next year. I can't remember another doc where I've laughed so hard and felt so moved. This follows Kenny Shopsin, a hilariously profane, unexpectedly gifted chef (his menu contains over 900 items) who ran a tiny, pre-gentrification Greenwich Village diner with his wife and five children for over 30 years. As he loses his lease and prepares to sublet a larger location down the street, viewers can practically gleam a philosophy of the entire world in his single grain of sand. Kenny may be cranky, but as the film progresses, he evenutally comes off as a honest and exceptionally humane son-of-a-bitch. 5 cats"

This film was shown as part of the 2004 Independent Film Festival of Boston.

 

Clinton says: "This low budget documentary is about a legendary diner in New York called Shopsin's. They are known not only for the amazing menu of over 300 original home-made menu items (macaroni and cheese omelet, anyone?), but for the hot tempers and no-fuckin-around attitudes of the Shopsin family. For 35 years, first timers were notoriously curious and frightened of the diner where 'the customer is usually wrong.' Special order? Are you kiddin'?! Just want coffee? Don't waste their time. Party of 5? No way! Never! Four is the max. There isn't a patron that hasn't been insulted, belittled, and thrown out of Shopsin's (including filmmaker Matt Mahurin, whose been a patron for 15 years) by the fiery owner/chef Kenny Shopsin. But they keep coming back, not just because this cramped, dirty, and nostalgia filled dive has the best food you'll ever eat, but because underneath it all there's an undeniable loveableness to that bastard who owns the place. Self depreciating, matter of fact, completely fucked up (he's been in out of therapy for years) and surprisingly insightful, Kenny's the best and the worst of New York wrapped up in one huge, fiercely individual package. But Shopsin's is on the verge of losing their lease (new building owners don't seem to get the charm) and this documentary follows the final days of a New York legend, and the opening of a new (and, I hate to say it, but less exciting) location. The film is inspiring, hilarious, and at times a little frightening (Kenny's explosive temper can go off when you least expect it - and is often directed at his loyal family). It's also a little too long, with a false-feeling final act that reaches for a pseudo-poignancy that seems at odds with the rest of the production. Still, the heart is in the right place, and there wasn't an audience member who wasn't begging to go to Shopsin's after the show."

 

Diane says: Great docu about Kenny Shopsin, caustic NYC restaurateur. (You may be familiar with him from Calvin Trillin's NYer article a couple years ago.)"

This film was shown as part of the 2004 Independent Film Festival of Boston.