The work and food of a cantankerous restaurant man in New York City.
Dir. Matt Mahurin, 2004, 78 min, Viewed via Netflix Instant
Sometimes it’s just great to spend a little time with a thoroughly unique individual. That’s what you get from I Like Killing Flies, a profile of a most unusual restauranteur. With the freewheeling structure and easygoing tone of a magazine profile, the documentary puts the viewer inside a small, highly specific world. It’ll also give you a place to visit the next time you go to New York.
Tucked away in the Lower East Side is a little hole in the wall eatery called Shopsin’s. The owner and head cook, Kenny Shopsin, has gained no small amount of infamy in the city. The first reason for this is his menu. Featuring almost a thousand dishes, he often makes to order, and it features unique items like slutty cakes, pancakes with peanut butter. The meals are divinely unhealthy, which is a good part of their draw. It’s comfort food that would make Paula Deen weep buttery tears of joy. The second reason for the restaurant’s fame is its stringent set of rules. Parties can’t be larger than four people (and don’t try to cheat by splitting up and then sitting next to one another Kenny will know), and no one, ever, is allowed to piss off the owner. Because the third reason is that Kenny Shopsin is an ornery sonuvagun.
Shopsin is like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, except the Soup Nazi was more easygoing. This is his restaurant and he will serve his artery-destructing foodstuffs as he sees fit. If anyone has a problem with how he does service? He kicks them out, often with a tirade of profanity. But Shopsin has a philosophical side as well. He spent a good amount of time applying Freudian self-analysis to himself, and now he’s far more introspective than you might expect of him, given his demeanor. Throughout the movie, he shares his ideas on work, food, family, faith, politics, and more.
There’s something of a plot, as the lease has expired on the restaurant, and Shopsin must find and move to a new location. But mainly this is just a look at life as Kenny Shopsin sees it. You may not agree with him on everything (or even most of the things) he says, but learning about him this way allows you to understand where he comes from, and what in his life has shaped his views. I Like Killing Flies is short, punchy, and deeply entertaining to watch. Matt Mahurin, a photographer and music video director, found one of those perfect subjects in Shopsin. He’s more than worth a visit.