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||IMDB Rating: 7.1/10 from 1,942 votes
||Release: 3 April 2003 (Netherlands) /
||Director: Angela Christlieb,
||Synopsis: This documentary about the culture of intense cinephilia in New York City reveals the impassioned world of five obsessed movie buffs. The filmmakers expose this delightfully deranged cult by capturing the daily lives of its members. Interviews in movie houses, on the street and in the homes of the subjects tell the story of each individual. Many cannot hold a job, or choose not to. All of them have demoted the importance of the real world, giving all of their attention to the fantasy world of the movies. These human encyclopedias of cinema see two to five films a day, and from 600 to 2,000 films per year. Many have no physical sex lives, living instead in a world of romance with stars like James Dean or Audrey Hepburn. In Cinemania, Hollywood's biggest fans become the true stars. This is the story of their lives, their memories, their unbending habits and the films they love. Written by Miriam Hopkins
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Cinemania, screened recently as a world premiere at AMMI in Queens (where
was partially shot), deals with the marginal world of true movie nuts: New
Yorkers who attend anywhere from 500 to 1000 feature films in cinemas per
year at the cost of leaving no time for virtually any other activities or
"normal" social life.
I am a "recovering cinemaniac" who attended 600 films per year throughout
the '70s and '80s, but not now -I've moved on to other pursuits, mainly
music. I personally know four of the five principals featured in this
documentary. We used to meet on a nearly daily basis at MoMA, Film Forum,
Walter Reade, the old Thalia, or many other now-defunct Gotham revival
houses including the Gramercy, Regency, Theatre 80 St. Marks, Jean Renoir
Cinema, Fifth Avenue Cinema, The New Yorker, Bleecker St. Cinema,
Hall Cinema, etc. Each of these true "characters" is quite serious about
this avocation, collecting memorabilia (Roberta and Harvey), or making
endless preparations and cross-referenced lists of upcoming showtimes so
not to miss anything important or rare that is screening (Jack). Eric has
sadly succumbed to watching videos, but is still included here as sort of
The filmmakers, who stated at the q&a post-screening that they were
independently filming Jack when they joined forces on this single project,
miss a great opportunity to really dig into the subject -the Golden Age of
movie culture in New York, which existed back in the '50s, '60s and '70s.
Pioneering figures like Anthology Archives' Jonas Mekas are still on the
scene and could have been interviewed, and a study of the days of Amos
Vogel, Sid Geffen, Richard Roud, Andy Warhol, et al would have made for a
riveting documentary even if the "documents plus voices" approach of Ken
Burns were all that could be conjured up of the past.
Instead, the directors took the lazy contemporary approach, for which the
audience rightly took them to task at the q&a. The five very interesting
individuals are trailed around town during 2000/2001 in lame cinéma vérité
style, revealing more silly foibles than insight. I felt very bad for my
friends and acquaintances, who deserved a lot more than being treated as
figures of fun. Ironically, what the 5 Cinemaniacs had to say at the Q&A
(NOT recorded by these filmmakers) was vastly more interesting and
than anything shown in the film itself.
The premise of this film is sadly off-target: the claim is made that
cinemania flourishes in New York in this new 21st Century, when in fact
anyone with any memory knows the Good Old Days are long gone. As Jack
frequently points out, print quality is a serious problem. Absence of
talented and dedicated projectionists is equally harmful. As imdb fans
know, everything today is driven by DVD, video and new technology. The
great revival houses are gone. Sure there are dedicated restoration
devoted to individual film titles, but the endless feast of revival films
no more, when the collected works of Bergman, Truffaut, Dreyer, Chabrol,
Kurosawa, Antonioni and all the American masters were constantly on
right back through to the Silents. Heck, back in the '70s it was routine
COMMERCIAL FIRST-RUN CINEMAS to run Garbo, Keaton, Chaplin and Marx Bros.
festivals. I was living in Cambridge back in the '60s when the Bogey and
other revival cults really took hold.
Nowhere in this flimsy documentary do we find about the Thousand Eyes
society, the history of midnight movies (begun at the old Elgin Theater,
the Joyce Dance Theater in Chelsea), Cinema 16 and the Underground Film
movement (which presaged the Midnight Movies) or even a hint of the once
rich ethnic cinemas (foreign language films shown without subtitles,
Spanish, Indian, Polish, etc.) that were all killed off by video.
Alas, I hope someone delves into the fun by-gone eras of movie fanaticism
-when GOING to catch a rare film was the impetus to self-education about
cinema. Even drive-ins were a great source in "them days", right up
the '70s. Today a movie nut is likely to be building a COLLECTION
of decades ago) of adulterated VHS or revisionist (how much added footage
commentary can be tossed into the pot) DVD material. As a purist, I never
counted seeing a film on tv as actually SEEING it - it had to be on a
(Marshall McLuhan had an explanation for this but I was merely intuitive).
Today's movie buffs have settled for the illusion rather than the real
(driven by our society's ever-reliance on planned obsolescence, as
exemplified by the imminent end of the VHS just as BETA disappeared and
will be later destroyed (how about those self-destructing inferior quality
Punchline is that this documentary was SHOT ON VIDEO (and then
to film), a fact commented upon derogatorily by Jack & others who revere
35mm (or 70mm). The current generation is treating film and video as
interchangeable; a near-future generation will not even know what film is
(was) once digital technology completely takes over in cinemas. All in
pursuit of (or worse, cutting corners to save) an almighty
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