My fascination with film has stemmed from surrounding myself in media for nearly all of my life. The byproduct of that is my attempt at forming a career out of a hobby I dearly love. But some are content to keep their hobbies just that, hobbies. No financial motivation to procure a knowledge of film, just the sheer enjoyment. Cinemania was a stressful viewing, picking up on some of the similarities I have with the obsessive mind of the subjects within was eerie and ominous, rather than flattering and comforting.
As a documentary, it feels unfocused, darting between its subjects at as fast a pace as possible. Some are left high and dry; others are examined at a near microscopic level. Regardless of how focused directors Angela Christlieb and Stephen Kijak are on these individuals; one thing is common; their lack of connection with the real world. They’re so out of the loop in what goes on around them that we see scenes of two of the subjects stuck in traffic during a parade. “What day even is it?” one of them asks, to the unabashed cinephile next to him.
But that’s not to say that they’re devoid of any connection to the real world. These same two cinephiles share opinions and discuss subjects like any other person would. It’s just that their discussions are solely focused on the medium of the art they love the most, film. We see the two bonding and watching films together, like any set of friends would. My only problem with it is that, given how Kijak and Christlieb have shown their obsession with film, it comes off as slightly unsettling. The film swings violently between adoration and humiliation.
Some of these film fanatics come across as rude, and all as compulsive. This is intentional, it’s the aim of the movie. It doesn’t focus on their passion and knowledge for film, but rather on their strange lifestyles and the extremes they go to, to make sure they see every second of every film. The line between hoarder and collector, fan and obsessive, is blurred so often and so frequently it’s hard to nail down what the point of the documentary really is.
It would be easy to write off the subjects of Cinemania as nothing more than unwashed nerds that need to get a life. But they have a life. The cinema is their life, and while I may not be to that extreme in my love for film, I can always appreciate someone wholly invested in their hobby. But the question Cinemania proposes isn’t whether or not these people are strange, it’s the question of whether or not they can justify giving up a life in the real world to compensate for their infatuation with cinema.