Cinemania (2002) DVD cover

(2002) dir. Angela Christlieb, Stephen Kijak
viewed: 01/02/04

What seemed a better film to start off my third year of the Film Diary than with a documentary about people who take cinephilia to extreme levels of psychosis? Actually, this film had been on the Monday Night Movie Club’s list but got missed out due to some cancelation or another. When I saw that it was out on DVD, I thought it still a subject worth exploring.

This documentary focuses on five individuals who live in New York City and all they do is go see films in the theater. 2-5 movies a day, daily, despite or perhaps because they do not have jobs to eat into their precious movie seeing time. For all of them, the intensity of their “philia” or “mania” verges heavily or just simply centered in the realm of psychosis.They are all unemployed, though the older three all collect disability of some sort, and all of them live in tiny hovels stacked high with crap, with the exception of the one guy who appears to still be living with his mother.

The film doesn’t really try to draw the line between a typical cinephile, even a fairly hardcore one who avidly read new schedules and worked a good deal of their free time around seeing films, and these “cinemaniacs”. There is a line that gets crossed between a passion for something and compulsion, and maybe it would have been interesting to see some figures who blur the line between what might be considered “normal” behavior and not. As far as self-destructive habits go, seeing movies “projected” in theaters (as even I in my film diary have deemed “the way God intended them to be seen”), is hardly comparable to serial murder. All three of these people have virtually no lives beyond the theater, though, and some of them articulate that fact proudly.

The main figure, Jack, who is both the most lucid and functional of the people highlighted in this film, is used to interview the other cinemaniacs and becomes the film’s main voice. There are occasional allusions to arrests and such that the film doesn’t go into in detail. Toward the end of the film, Cinemania is screened for the group, which they receive well but seem a little embarrassed by.

Having come through film school, I think I can honestly say that though I have never known any true cinemaniacs, I knew a couple of people who weren’t entirely dissimilar (maybe their passions/mainas were either more diversified)? I guess it depends on how much of a cinephile you are as to how many of these people you might know.

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