I Like Killing Flies (2004)


(director: Matt Mahurin; cinematographer: Matt Mahurin; editor: Matt Mahurin; music: Chris Toland; cast: Eve Shopsin, Kenny Shopsin; Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Matt Mahurin; ThinkFilm; 2004)

“The food looks scrumptious and the video is carried along through the strength of the idiosyncratic and blustery chef.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Matt Mahurin’s (“Mugshot”) in-your-face, shot on video, documentary is a loving portrait of a unique, almost last of a kind, tiny Greenwich Village eatery located for the last 32 years at Bedford and Morton Streets, but due to the greedy whims of a hostile new landlord’s hefty rent hike with an insulting one year lease the owner is forced to relocate to nearby Carmine Street in the name of urban gentrification. The film’s purpose is to capture this monumental event for the owner and his loyal customers, and to point out that the city’s rep as the restaurant capital of the world was gained through irreplaceable unorthodox personalities such as the owner of Shopsin’s. It’s run by the motorcycle riding, red suspender wearing, flowing white haired, bellicose, Freudian orientated, overweight, fly swatting, philosophical, profane (almost every sentence contains the F word), eccentric and legendary Kenny Shopsin with his wife Eve and five grown children. In his eatery, a homage to the anti-bourgeois establishment, the customer isn’t always right and he reserves the right not to serve those he doesn’t approve of (he tells us in no uncertain terms “the customers have to prove it to me that they’re OK to feed”) and absolutely enforces his rule about not serving parties of five or more. It’s the odd but good vibe atmosphere, the greatly appealing wide variety of 900 fusion food items on the daily menu and the word of mouth that has made this restaurant a must-eat place for a cross-section of hearty New Yorkers. The food looks scrumptious and the video is carried along through the strength of the idiosyncratic and blustery chef. It makes my mouth water to think if it could be possible for such a joint to possibly find its way to my rural hometown.

Calvin Trillin wrote an over 4,000 word loving article for The New Yorker in 2002, which sealed the deal for the already landmark place. The article tells how it started in 1982 by taking over from a grocery story and how the 34 seat restaurant got on with the inventive genius of Shopsin in both creating makeshift contraptions and cooking up such culinary treats as fluffernutter sandwiches, Blisters on My Sisters (corn tortillas with more than 20 possible fillings), Piaf eggs (gruyere sauce, fried onions on toast) and Deborah (vegetable tabbuleh, tahina with pita).