Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I Gotta Be Me?

A friend of mine recently gave me a copy of the 2002 documentary Cinemania. While I found it fascinating, I also found it somewhat unsettling. It reminded me too much of that old proverb "There But for the Grace of God Go I." I'd recommend renting it if you get the chance. Here's a synopsis of the documentary, courtesy of

This documentary about the culture of intense cinephilia in New York City reveals the impassioned world of five obsessed movie buffs. The filmmakers expose this delightfully deranged cult by capturing the daily lives of its members. Interviews in movie houses, on the street and in the homes of the subjects tell the story of each individual. Many cannot hold a job, or choose not to. All of them have demoted the importance of the real world, giving all of their attention to the fantasy world of the movies. These human encyclopedias of cinema see two to five films a day, and from 600 to 2,000 films per year. Many have no physical sex lives, living instead in a world of romance with stars like James Dean or Audrey Hepburn. In Cinemania, Hollywood's biggest fans become the true stars. This is the story of their lives, their memories, their unbending habits and the films they love.

My friend and I both have an extensive collection of movies and assorted movie memorabilia. I mostly stick to ephemera and the movies themselves, not getting too involved with the whole aspect of collecting in the strictest sense of the word, but I have my share of books and photos.

We discussed how tragic it was that the majority of the cinemaphiles dealt with in the documentary, as one reviewer put it, were basically "...borderline mental patients whose obsession with movies is simply a symptom of their obsessive compulsive disorders." We agreed that there could be a documentary made of people like he and myself who collect movies, fuss over cover art, search for out-of-print movies and rejoice over simple things like soundtracks and movie tie-in paperbacks. What I normally take pride in suddenly felt tainted, as if there's something "wrong" with me in the sense that some characteristcs of the people we were just pitying now reflect on me. I don't feel quite as out of the loop as the people documented, but then I'm sure they don't feel like what they do is unjustifiable either. I'm wondering if it's all a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. Whatever the case, it's left me feeling like I'm somehow maladjusted.


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