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05-20-03, 11:17 PM
I can truly relate to these people. Here's a review from the New York Press:

Cinema Paradiso: Film freaks through a soft lens.

By Matt Zoller Seitz

I see more movies than most people, but my cinema habit canít begin to approach that of the folks profiled in Cinemania, an engrossing new documentary by Angela Christlieb and Steven Kijak now showing at Cinema Village. The five moviegoers profiled by the filmmakers see two to five films each day; they see the same movies multiple times in theaters, even ones they thought were just okay; they arrange their days around screening times and carefully study subway and bus times to figure out how they can get from, say, a 1 p.m. screening at the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens to a 3:30 MOMA screening; when they get home after a long day they unwind by watching movies on video.

They exhibit classic symptoms of obsessive-compulsive behaviorótheyíre all pack rats; one of them even saves souvenir plastic cups. And they all admit that their nonstop moviegoing has overwhelmed everything else in their lives. Three are on disability, a fourth purposely stays in an undemanding job so he can make more time for moviegoing, the fifth can pursue the cinemaniacís lifestyle because heís independently wealthy.

Yet thereís a calm, centered, satisfied quality to these five people that undercuts any easy attempts to pigeonhole them. The most outwardly distressed member of the group is Roberta Hill, an elderly former mail carrier who has been known to break into fits of rage for no good reason. She saves every ticket stub and prizes them so dearly that a few years ago, when a MOMA ticket-taker ripped her ticket without warning, she strangled the woman and got banned from the museum for life.

Even Roberta seems to be a more or less functional person; she gets around, she can hold conversations with people and she has informed, interesting opinions on different aspects of the moviegoing experience, from the quality of particular films to whatís a suitable temperature for an auditorium. (She once rebelled against humid conditions at the Art Greenwich by stripping off her blouse and watching the rest of the picture in her brassiere.) One gets the impression that with better counseling and medical care, Roberta might be indistinguishable from, say, the person who wrote this review.

Roberta is the most extreme member of an obsessed bunch of people. The filmís most eloquent subject is Jack Angstreich, a thirtysomething who watches movies at least eight hours a day. He has a deep knowledge of social and political history, and relates it to movies (and his own life) with a lucid self-awareness that shames most working critics. He recognizes that what heís doing is evading reality in favor of a heightened, processed facsimile, held at bay by the borders of a movie screen. But he doesnít beat himself up over this because, as he rightly observes, our world is so screwed up that itís hard to blame anyone for wanting to escape it. Jack is the paradigm of a self-aware, off-kilter individualist; he knows heís let his life be overtaken by obsession, but he enjoys the obsession. (Itís like the old joke about a guy whose brother thinks heís a chicken; he really should get help for his brother, but he needs the eggs.) Jackís many t-shirt-ready quotes include, "A commitment to cinema commits you to a technically deviant lifestyle," and "Cinema becomes imprisoning."

We also meet Bill Heidbreder, a skinny, excessively polite man whose business cards describe him as a writer and philosopher. In an astonishing moment, Eric Chadbourne, a 50-year-old videotape collector, casually admits that Audrey Hepburnís death affected him more deeply than the deaths of any of his relatives. As someone who was depressed for a full week following Burt Lancasterís death, Iím in no position to poke fun. Instead, Iíll quote Walker Percyís famous passage from The Moviegoer: "The fact is that I am quite happy in a movie, even a bad movie. Other people, so I have read, treasure memorable moments in their lives: the time one climbed the Parthenon at sunrise, the summer night one met a lonely girl in Central Park and achieved with her a sweet and natural relationship, as they say in books. I too once met a girl in Central Park, but it is not much to remember. What I remember is the time John Wayne killed three men with a carbine as he was falling to the dusty street in Stagecoach, and the time the kitten found Orson Welles in the doorway in The Third Man."

I was enormously impressed by Cinemania, a super-low-budget movie shot on video. Admittedly part of that affection comes from the shock of seeing my kind of people portrayed onscreen, with both clarity and empathy. Iím more functional than the folks portrayed by Christlieb and Kijak. I have a lot of old pop-culture junk in my house, but at least you can see my floor, and I donít see as many movies as I used to now that I have a day job and family.

Otherwise, Iím one of them. Iíve been known to leave a theater to complain that a 1.85:1 aspect ratio movie was masked too tight at the top of the frame, or that a subwoofer had a faint rattle and should be switched off. Iíve often risked a punch in the mouth to order teenage boys whose mamas obviously didnít raise them right to shut up, weíre at a movie, not at home watching wrestling.

For these reasons and others, Iíve been mildly aghast by the gawking, nearly Fellini-esque tone of some of the reviews of Cinemania. Itís almost as if certain critics wish to let readers know that theyíre not at all like the people on screen, and that contrary to what the general public thinks, critics arenít all social autistics, obsessive-compulsives, cranks and freaks. Theyíre lying, of course. Iím probably telling tales out of school here, but you should see the annual voting meeting of the New York Film Critics Circle. If we ever decide to have a group portrait done, we should bring George Grosz back from the dead to draw it. Christ, you should have seen me before I got my hair cut; I looked like Animal from the Muppets, if Animal wore glasses and suffered from the onset of male-pattern baldness.

But I digress. My pointóand yes, Virginia, there is oneóis that Christlieb and Kijak seem to be the sort of documentarians every subject wishes they might have telling their story. (The movie even ends with the directors showing the movie to their subjects and getting their reactionsómixed but positive.) They capture a certain type of person while insisting that each one amounts to more than a type. Iím eager to see what these filmmakers do next. Personally, I think they should do a documentary about Christopher Guestís repertory company, which makes sharp but kindhearted fiction films about similarly obsessive, marginalized, complex peopleófilms that make you squirm and smile.

Directed by Angela Christlieb and Steven Kijak

05-21-03, 02:35 AM
Are any of the people in the film DVDTalkers?

05-21-03, 12:39 PM
a fourth purposely stays in an undemanding job so he can make more time for moviegoing, Wow, sounds familiar. :)

When does this come out?

05-21-03, 01:26 PM
I feel both envy and sympathy for the people in this movie!

05-21-03, 02:09 PM
I saw this last Friday. Both funny and sad for the same reason -- these people see 3-5 movies a day and have no life.

05-21-03, 02:29 PM
I am one of these people.

Well, I don't see three to five a movies a day, but I can totally relate with the obsession.

05-21-03, 03:27 PM
Don't think of these people as "obsessive" - simply (no pun intended) <i>"focused"</i> ... -wink-

05-21-03, 04:09 PM
I had the good fortune of catching this at the Tribeca Film Festival and wrote a feature for Cinema Gotham about it here (http://www.dvdtalk.com/cinemagotham/archives/001391.html). I also got to meet a few of the "Cinemaniacs" as well as the co-director Stephen Kijak.

Highly recommended to any film buffs out there (of which there should be plenty).

Originally posted by Pants
Wow, sounds familiar. :)

When does this come out? It will continue playing festivals throughout the fall, and is currently at Cinema Village in New York (tentatively scheduled for a one week stint, ending this Friday unless they carry it over).

05-21-03, 06:32 PM
I think it's interesting that all the subjects in this film wear glasses.

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