USA/Germany, Angela Christlieb, Stephen Kijak (2002)
This documentary turns the camera on five obsessed film buffs in New York City who devote the majority of their waking lives to watching movies. These people are serious about film. They’re very particular about where and how they see movies. They have prime seats chosen for each different venue and arrive an hour early to make sure they get it. They obsess over running times. They compose spreadsheets to maximize their time and cover the most cinematic ground per day. Showtimes and public transit schedules are coordinated to hit as many as five movies a day. They’re famous, and in some cases infamous, among cinephiles in New York, known by the staffs of movie houses throughout the city. And like any true film buff, they’re not shy about sharing their opinions about films.
These four men and one woman watch movies to the exclusion of all else—they don’t have jobs, or significant relationships, wives, husbands, children, and some people would say, lives. But what they do have is a firm sense of why they love movies and how that passion sustains who they are.
Cinemania is a fascinating and highly entertaining glimpse into the lives of these quirky, eccentric characters and their off-beat world. I know a few people whom I’d call hard-core film buffs, but nothing approaching this level. I think it’s safe to say when I go to the Siskel Film Center, I’m brushing elbows with a few film fans who’d feel right at home in Cinemania. As someone who loves film, it was interesting to see just how far this pastime can go.
It becomes apparent during the film that each subject has some history of mental illness in varying degrees, which leads to my single criticism. Cinemania would seem to suggest that the true obsessed film fan is by definition mentally challenged in some way. It would have been interesting to include someone without a history of therapy or obsessive-compulsive disorder to counter the stereotype. But perhaps that is part of the definition. It’s an interesting question.
Here’s the Gist: Whether you see one or a hundred movies a week, anyone who loves movies should see this film. [***1/2]