DVD: Cinemania (2002)

January 5, 2017 | By

Cinemania2002_sFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: Very Good

Label:  Wellspring

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  November 3, 2003

Genre:  Documentary / Film History / Film Exhibition

Synopsis: Five movie junkies are profiled in this classic doc that’s now a time capsule of the thriving rep and film festival cinemas in NYC, just before digital projection would make fast and permanent inroads.

Special Features:  15 Deleted Scenes including 2002 Tribeca Film Festival Audience Q&A (45 mins.) / Trailers / Director Filmographies.




Angela Christlieb and Stephan Kijak’s documentary still resonates 14 years after its release, more so because its snapshot of obsessive film fans remains immortal, bit Cinemania is also a unique snapshot of changes that affected the way many movie aficionados now digest classics and rarities.

The film’s five central subjects are Jack Angstreich, perhaps the most highbrow of the group with his affection for European masters; Bill Heidbreder, a passionate follower of French masters and things French; Harvey Schwartz, connoisseur of good and bad films, and the most laid-back of the quintet; Eric Chadbourne, whose tastes tend to celebrate silent and silver screen icons of the sound era, plus Audrey Hepburn; and Roberta Hill, a longtime film fan whose decades of attendance has also fed a peculiar OCD habit of collecting multiple copies of programme guides.

In the Tribeca audience Q&A archived in the DVD’s Deleted Scenes Gallery, the filmmakers’ concept was to examine the extreme film fans who would see 4-5 films a day at NYC’s key retrospective and festival venues – that’s 16mm and 35mm print screenings with paid admissions.

The funds, time, energy, and strategies collectively devoted to catching favourites and new delicacies would be exhausting to anyone, and maybe the toughest challenge for the filmmakers wasn’t to capture the nuances that make up these eccentric film fans, but not pass judgment, and to find a balance in which obsession – intense and / or devoted – doesn’t brand them as insane.

Some members of the quintet are friends, so they’re aware of each others quirks, which for some includes a high intolerant for audience noise, latecomers, uppity fellow patrons, bad projection, poor sound, and other sensitivities.

Things become more than a little uncomfortable when two of the five became involved with physical assault because their OCD or intolerance led to the kind of outbursts that guaranteed banning (Roberta) or police arrest (Jack). Extremes of hoarding, crap-packed apartments, and piles of tapes and papers make one less sympathetic when Jack admits to tripping a woman in the aisle and made a point of watching the film to the end before the lights brightened and the police made their move.

There are some deep emotional issues that affect the quintet, but they’re cognizant of their respective quirks and issues, and some openly admit movies offers the ideal escape or medication to deal with sudden and ongoing conflicts. Because the film was shot over time, there’s a hope the filming, the premiere, and subsequent audience Q&A allowed for some reflection; darker material in the Deleted Scenes provides glimpses of even worse behaviour.

Cinemania is funny, initially lively, and shows a form of movie attendance just as digital projection was starting to make baby imprints in theatres. Two members of the quintet have avoided home video to remain true to seeing film prints projected on large screens, and although videotape and DVDs aren’t acknowledged beyond Eric’s tape collection, there is a short deleted scene in which Jack visits the former Kim’s Video and buys some pre-recorded tapes.

(Perhaps the most striking aspect of that short bit reveals Kim’s stocking of French SECAM tapes for another faction of cinephilia – tape collectors who not only buy physical media, but European tapes for their multi-standard VCRs. Like print-seekers, media collectors are builders of large personal archives, which became the focus of later documentaries Rewind This! and Adjust Your Tracking.)

Dating and struggling with / eschewing a love life also pop up, and a few more slivers of private confessions reside in the deleted material (Jack’s epic explanation in being fascinated with Rita Hayworth’s hair is just plain bizarre), as well as Bill’s roommate who didn’t make the final film edit.

It’s easy to pass hasty judgment on the five subjects – none of them are writers, journalists, or articulate film theorists – who bravely opened their eccentricities and obsessive lives to the cameras; what viewers should take away is the value and danger of an obsession which can reward but drown a soul when there’s nothing to temper the mania to devour pop culture and the seventh art.

Wellspring’s DVD features a non-anamorphic transfer of the DV-shot film that’s a bit soft on details but otherwise looks fine, and comes with over 45 mins. of deleted material which was rightly excised for the sake of pacing, focus, and balancing the funny with the odd and uneasy.



© 2017 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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