I Like Killing Flies

Director: Matt Mahurin

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

A totally nutso New York restaurant is commemorated by I Like Killing Flies (2004), which had been in the same location in Greenwich Village for thirty years.

The documentary begins by following the cook Kenny Shopsin through a door of what looks like a dumpster shed, into a grim messy dark windowless kitchen where he begins preparing food, all the while swatting flies & ranting & raving colorfully about his feelings, beliefs, & life as a cook.

I Like Killing FliesThe cafe opens & we see the crowded narrow-aisled sloppy kitchen in full action, with interviews out front. Costomers absolutely adore their favorite neighborhood restaurant, & don't seem to know, notice, or mind the years of grime & a few crushed flies contaminating their orders.

The recipies are loony -- macaroni & cheese pancakes for example -- but apparently tasty since people line up for it. Kenny's wonderful, beautiful wife walks stooped over like a robot duck, cute as all get out, but apparently not well.

Because Greenwich Village has gentrified, there are no longer affordable locations for such small odd businesses as this, & the cafe is preparing to close. The sorrow of clientelle reveals true neighborhood spirit. A few hold-outs try to turn doom around, eager to preserve a bit of what the Village had formerly been.

The owner/cook is a marvelous eccentric, a ranting philosopher, & cantankerous curmudgeon loved by many, including those who count it a badge of honor if they'd once been thrown out of the restaurant for disobeying some piddly rule.

Mom, dad, & a bunch of kids who run the place all feel acutely the probability of their business no longer existing. But with unexpected luck & a little help from neighborhood patrons, they score a new storefront a block away.

The available space is too big, too expensive, & not conducive to what the cafe had been for three decades, but at least Kenny will be cooking & yelling in the Village, & that counts for a lot. So this is no chronicle of loss, but a curious & upbeat record of achievement.

This film captures the wonders of urban Americana, city hillbillies as backbone of bohemianism & sense of community, Kenny at the center of it all, the Zen Jew genius of the greasy grill.

Not that it's overly sentimental; it's too crazily off-kilter for the cute kittens calendar. And in the end, we learn Eve Shopsin died a year after the move. Nothing & no one is forever, but even if Shopsin's must inevitably vanish in time, Kenny's memoir-cookbook Eat Me: Food & Philosophy (2008) & this documentary mean Shopsin's will on one level or another live forever.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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