I just rented the documentary film, Cinemania (IMDB), which is about a group of intense New York cinephiles who spend their entire days watching countless films in various theaters around the city.

Their interest in film borders on pathology, with the cinephiles refusing careers or what might be called a “normal life” (on character even cultivates a high-fiber diet in order to avoid worrying about having to miss scenes from films because of an untimely visit to the bathroom), but the cinephiles are not treated with condescension. As the filmmakers themselves comment:

What interested us about these people was the degree to which their love of film has seemed to eclipse all other concerns in their lives.

What makes the film work is the filmmakers’ generosity towards their subjects and the unabashed honesty of the subjects themselves.

All of the cinephiles have their idiosyncracies: one cinephile, who graduated with honors from Berkeley, identifies himself as a philosopher and loves European art cinema (the filmmakers now have a blog that prominently features his reviews). Others are obsessed with the running time of films or with obscure stars. Several of them are unable to watch films on video, while one viewer wants to get a cell phone so that he can call the projectionist’s booth to ensure that the films he watches are projected properly.

Many of these cinephiles are also collectors. Roberta, the one female cinephile, collects programs, cups, and all sorts of promotional memorabilia, worrying that her collection will be lost if/when she is evicted from her apartment. Another collects soundtracks on vinyl even though he doesn’t have a stereo. Others spend their inheritance or their unemployment checks buying books. Another keeps journals listing every film he has seen. The sense of the cinephile as collector is what struck me the most about the film. Even attending films so frequently (at minimum 3-4 films per day) is essentially a version of collecting experiences. In this sense, I’m thinking about collecting as a means of controlling one’s experiences, of providing them with a sense of meaning or order, specifically within a world that is chaotic and disorienting (there are sevral shots of the spectacular space of Times Square that might reinforce this reading).

Hmmm…I lost the end of this review and I’m too tired to re-create it, but I found the film’s treatment of the obsessive practies of these cinephiles to be really quite interesting….

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