Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

This documentary presents a portrait of a group of five New York film obsessives, the sort of people who will, quite literally, watch films all day long.

Other than the obvious processes of selecting and sequencing their materials and a few banal bridging sequences - look, accelerated motion - the filmmakers, Angela Christlieb and Stephen Kijak, let the cinemaniacs speak for themselves. They are generally forthright about their obsessions, apparently used to being regarded as weirdos, and with justifying themselves, although it's sometimes unclear whether their "confessions" are spontaneous, or prompted.

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For the most part, the cinemaniacs are much as you would expect. Four of the five are male, conforming to the usual gender stereotypes. All appear to be single, unattached and uninterested in - or incapable of - a conventional lifestyle that would curtail their movie watching (Jack claims to have seen 1000 films in a month, which, allowing for the mathematical impossibility of this, assuming they were all feature length, is a lot of film). None is what you would call wealthy - three live on benefits and a fourth cautiously on an inheritance - and they all seem to live in cramped, memorabilia-filled apartments.

That said, differences in their film viewing habits and personalities emerge; the former obviously a keen topic amongst the group.

Roberta does not have a television and will not watch films on video, whereas Eric will happily watch his favourites until the tapes disintegrate. Bill's theoretical interests mean a leaning towards the European auteurs, while Eric is somewhat dismissive of Fassbinder, Resnais and Co. and, looking first and foremost to be entertained, is, instead, an undifferentiating connoisseur of B-Movies.

Jack considers Roberta to be the farthest gone of the group and suggests that her obsession has trapped her in a "hopeless Sisyphean life". Roberta, however, appears unlikely to come to such a conclusion or, if she did regard her life in these terms, would most likely invoke Camus's happy Sisyphus.

As a documentary, Cinemania succeeds in making the familiar strange and the unfamiliar everyday. The viewer soon gets over the initial freakshow aspect of it - look at these nerds - and comes to realise that such seemingly diverse demi-mondes as, say, High Fidelity music fans, Pumping Iron bodybuilders and Cinemania film buffs aren't all that different once you understand them.

That said, film buffs will especially enjoy Cinemania. Many will even envy these New Yorkers, wishing they had the same variety of cinematic spoils available.

Reviewed on: 04 Aug 2002
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There, but for the grace of God, go Scorsese, Tarantino, Truffaut and Godard in this documentary about seriously obsessive New York cinephiles.
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Director: Angela Christlieb, Stephen Kijak

Year: 2002

Runtime: 80 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Germany


EIFF 2002

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