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At Shopsin's, insults are an appetizer

October 20, 2006|Michael Phillips, John Anderson, Gene Seymour

Here's a treat. In Greenwich Village, on the isle of Manhattan, a Jewish Falstaff named Kenny Shopsin and his family serve up an inspired array of dishes at Shopsin's restaurant. (Check out and see what you think of the menu.) The proprietor isn't afraid of verbal abuse -- serious, ongoing, astonishingly creative verbal abuse -- and the customers, he says, "have to prove it to me that they're OK to feed."

Filmmaker Matt Mahurin was a regular at the old "banged-up little restaurant" and made the wise decision to chronicle the mood swings, crises, philosophy and kitchen wizardry of Shopsin and company. "I Like Killing Flies" glances on matters of urban gentrification (the family is forced to relocate to a nearby spot), but it's done entirely through character.

And what a character! The central figure in this exuberant documentary, a committed Freudian who probably would've tossed out Freud himself had the guy looked at him sideways, spouts one gem after another. "Regrets are like children," says the man with the untamed silver hair and merrily foul mouth. "You don't know if you really wanna have 'em, but it's too late to do anything about 'em." Known for ejecting customers on a whim -- Shopsin's preferred word is "eschew" -- the self-taught man behind the griddle, his wife, Eve, and their five seen-it-all kids emerge as the ensemble of the year.

-- Michael Phillips

"I Like Killing Flies" Unrated (1:19) Exclusively at Laemmle's Grande, 345 S. Figueroa St., Downtown L.A. (213) 617-0268.


From Bollywood, with U.S. influence

Not many Bollywood films are shot in New York; even fewer open with the "Blue Danube" waltz and an homage to "2001."

Although many American audiences consider Indian musicals screwball, "Jaan-e-Mann" could really have been made by Preston Sturges, had Sturges been a Hindu with access to "Matrix" technology.

When Suhaan (Salman Khan) -- the Cary Grant character who looks like Michael Madsen -- gets a notice of court-ordered alimony from his ex-wife, Piya (Preity Zinta) -- the Irene Dunne character who looks like Monica Bellucci -- Suhaan tries to marry her off to Agastya (Akshay Kumar). Piya and Suhaan are, of course, still in love. Meanwhile, characters waltz in and out of each other's flashbacks, hearts get broken and ragas are played on bagpipes.

Why every New Yorker has a British accent is a mystery, but the musical number built around Piya and Agastya's engagement is worth its weight in rupees.

-- John Anderson

"Jaan-e-Mann" Unrated (2:45). Exclusively at Laemmle's Fallbrook, 6731 Fallbrook Ave., West Hills (818) 340-8710; Naz8 Artesia, 6440 E. South St., Lakewood, (510) 797-2000; AMC 30, 1414 N. Azusa, Covina (626) 974-8600.


Bush vs. Kerry, hindsight added

Two years seems long enough for wounds to have healed and perspective to be gained from a presidential election. Although filmmakers Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern go out of their way to give voice to both sides of the 2004 presidential election in "So Goes the Nation," one still feels twinges of concern at the fair and foul means through which voters were persuaded to reelect a president widely considered unpopular and, thus, vulnerable to defeat. Even the Republican strategists interviewed here seem somewhat surprised, even in retrospect, at some of the short-sighted maneuvers of their Democratic counterparts.

The documentary, like others, hints at monkey business with balloting; still, you get the feeling in hindsight that the jig might have been up for Sen. John F. Kerry and supporters well before.

And yet -- well, at one point, Democratic consultant and frequent talk-show guest Paul Begala is shown in a "post-game" interview wondering what's fair about Paris Hilton paying as little taxes as possible while the waitress serving Hilton's latte has to fork over what seems like most of her salary.

What you're wondering at that moment is where, in all the campaigning that went on that year, was that speech? And would it have made a difference anyway?

-- Gene Seymour

"So Goes the Nation" Unrated. (1:30) Exclusively at Regent Showcase, 614 N. La Brea Ave. (323) 934-2944.

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