Cinemania

The documentary Cinemania explores the lives of a small group of New York cinephiles for whom movie-going falls somewhere between an obsession and a mental disorder. For the movie's subjects, most of whom collect disability or unemployment, the endlessly fetishized act of watching films seems to be more important than the artistic content of the movies themselves. In one telling scene, a cinephile proudly shows off his massive collection of film soundtracks on vinyl, then admits he doesn't have a record player. In another, a rumpled, shabbily dressed fan states that film is better than sex, although the choice seems theoretical at best. None of the subjects work in film, or even aspire to. They view moviegoing as a vocation, an end rather than a means. Cinemania follows its subjects as they go about their daily routine of seeing as many movies as possible, in spite of logistical and geographical challenges. What the film desperately lacks is context: The only outsiders it interviews are a roommate who makes a brief appearance and a few theater employees, who view the cinephiles as harmless eccentrics. (Or sometimes not so harmless: The sole female cinephile is banned from one theater for her abusive behavior.) Family members or a psychiatrist might have shed light on why moviegoing has become such a monomania for some, but directors Angela Christlieb and Stephen Kijak eschew such perspectives while allowing the film's subjects to ramble endlessly about trivia. A voyeuristic look at voyeurs, Cinemania never seems sure whether it's a comedy or a tragedy. Instead, the film just seems intent on depicting its subjects as lovable kooks, a reductive portrayal that does little to acknowledge the desperation and loneliness that permeates every frame.

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