Cinemania (2002)

“It’s beyond obsession.”

There have been times in my life when I’ve wondered if my love of film was a little out-of-control, and so when I heard about the film Cinemania, I knew I had to watch it. This documentary explores the film fanaticism of a handful of New Yorkers, and I wanted to see just how fanatical they are.

The film fanatics in Cinemania leave me in the dust when it comes to the pursuit of film watching. For a start, I no longer go to the cinema(thanks to cell phone use), but some of the film’s subjects see 3, 4 or 5 films a day. One man admits to seeing 1000 films over the course of a month.

This handful of cinephiles all live in New York, and New York is apparently THE place to be for film fanatics:

There’s Jack, who lives off of an inheritance
Bill who moved to New York in the first place thanks to a Fassbinder Festival
Harvey who will “see almost anything you put in front of him.”
Eric who argues, “film buffs do not socialize.”
Cantankerous Roberta who refuses to own a television set.

All of these cinephiles admit that films have an enormous role in their lives–often substituting for relationships and social interaction. The camera follows each of the subjects back to their homes: one man lives with his mother, another has a roommate, but the others apparently live alone–alone except that is for the stacks and stacks of movie memorabilia, programmes, and drink containers. At this point, I realized that Cinemania–at this level–is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

While our subjects struggle with the daily decision of which films to see (and which to miss), this dilemma goes so far as a computer ‘decision-making’ programme. And all of the cinephiles seem to have favorite seats in the cinema and are prepared to go to drastic lengths in order to enjoy their films. Jack, for example, would like to use a cell phone to call the projectionist to complain if there are problems. One subject even arranges his eating and bathroom habits so not to interfere with his film watching.

Jack’s sense of humour fuses with a voyeuristic fascination, and he’s not shy about directing that voyeurism towards his own obsession and the obsession of the other cinephiles in the film. He admits that he’d enjoy making love to Rita Hayworth but only if it could be in black and white as those dark lips are part of her sex appeal. I would love to know a little bit more about the subjects, and while we learn who likes what, we never really know what started this life-long obsession in the first place.

Chances are, if you are a bit nutty about cinema, you will enjoy Cinemania–a quirky, good natured look at why we love film and just how far over the edge some of us are willing to go to indulge that love….
Directed by Angela Christlieb and Stephen Kijak

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