{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Cinemania, directed by Angela Christlieb and Stephen Kijak, is a delightful little documentary about five people (Jack, Bill, Harvey, Eric and Roberta) living in New York, who have obsession of watching films, to a rather extreme level. All of them schedule their life around their film watching schedule, or more or less don't have a life except films. They talk about how to maximize the number of films that one can watch. They have elaborate mechanisms to plan their visits to theatres and schedule them with Subway timings. They have an average of 2-3 films a day. Some of them usually have constipatory diets so as not to get themselves disturbed during the film screening (One of them changes his underwear before the film so that there is no itching, and the other one make sure that he washes his specs and keeps a sweater in case he might feel little chilly, along with pills for headache, backache etc). One of them is thrown out of MoMa because she behaved badly with an attendant (grabbed her by neck and threatened) when she tore her ticket (needless to say that she has kept all the tickets of the hundreds of thousands films she had been watching since she was 15), later she tried to enter MoMa with a wig and weird makeup but was unfortunately caught doing so. One of them was put in prison for hitting a fellow audience because she came late and disturbed his movie watching experience (He completed the film after hitting her, because it would have been a betrayal to cinephilia if he had left in between the screening. In the end, he got arrested). The other has all the trivia about the character actors, the running time of films (different versions, director cut and all, he reports the curator if a scene from a film is missing), of the stars and related stories. Some of them are collectors of obscure items, brochures and cups etc. One of them is particularly enthusiastic about European cinema (mainly French cinema after the new wave) and thinking of putting a page length ad in a dating service to get a cinephile girl from Paris. Some of obsessives think that the others are rather deep in the obsession and few of them rather have a bad taste in films. In one of the scenes (or was it in deleted scenes, anyway don't forget to watch the deleted scenes, they are about 40 mins of fun), one of them jokes about Schindler's List (which is other ones' favorite film) as anti-Nazi propaganda, also they talk about some other Holocaust film that is so moralistic and backing the Jews that it forces the audience to sympathise with Nazis ;) The love life of younger lot is expectedly quite bad, since deep down they don't think they are normal (they discuss this too in one scene, defending that being normal means being similar. "In a prison, what is normal, rape or murder ?"). One of them once said to her date that it is very important to "act" that you are quite normal that left her rather amused. He says that he has only three things to talk to a woman - film, world affairs and his life events (like how he went to jail), and not many of them seem interested in them. He thinks he wants to make love to Rita Hayworth but only in black and white. Colors might disturb her shiny gray lipcolor. Apart from this, its a nice guide of the film viewing opportunities in New York, which are of course more than a "normal" person can devour. Although these people are not crazy and they see films because they like them (They cry during films, one of them said that he cried for few blocks after watching The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, the other cried when she realised that the lovers didn't meet in the end because the guy loved the girl more than the God, who killed her simply because the cruel god could not bear it, others claimed that they discovered life through films), there is a definite bent of escapism to this, and their everyday loneliness and disconnect from "normal" society fuels their passion to obsession, so in some ways the documentary left me empathetic and scared!

1 comment:

Alok said...

Hmm. haven't run into them so far. have been frequenting moma and film forum quite regularly myself.

it is true there is this pull between a desire to act and participate and on the other hand to sit passively in front of the screen and wait for external stimulation. I feel the balance is not quite right for me but with normal kind of life you can never get to see all those films.. there are just too many of them. the only option is to just say enough one day.