The cinetrix is a piker. She realizes this now. Here she's been holding down a job, paying bills, spending time with friends and family like a sucker. She has the temerity to call herself a cinemaphile?
Film buffs do not socialize.
The commitment to cinema ultimately entails a commitment to a technically deviant lifestyle on the margins.
Film is a substitute for life.
Yeah, you may think you're a film buff, but after you spend 80 minutes watching the five New York City-based cinema addicts profiled in the [shot on video! horrors!] 2002 documentary Cinemania, you'll realize you've been living a lie. I hope.
Cinemania profiles four men and a woman, Roberta, the Queen of Cinemaniacs, who's a dead-ringer for John Huston in Chinatown. Really. None of these people work. Three are on disability; one inherited money; and one ex-grad student is running out of unemployment checks--just before the New York Film Festival. All of them wear thick glasses and carry canvas totebags. And every single day they go to at least one and as many as five movies somewhere in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens. Sounds ideal, right?
They are notorious around town. A curator at the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens considers their presence at a screening vindication. A former ticket-taker at MoMA was nearly strangled by Roberta, whose museum membership was revoked. [She then tried to sneak in wearing a disguise.] And projectionists all over town patiently field phone calls about print quality from one of these fascinating film geeks, who once decked an old lady who came into a screening late.
Bill used to be a grad student at UC Berkeley. He takes pills for anxiety and sleeping, carries a change of clothes and sandwiches slathered with peanut butter. He writes 1,000-word personal ads, dreams of moving to movie-Paris, and unself-consciously begins sentences with, "My therapist said."
Jack inherited money. He dreams in CinemaScope or black and white and jokes that he's had to stop dreams because they were in the wrong aspect ratio. His nightmares are only on video. Like his fellow fanatics, he has no discernable sex life. He explains, "It wouldn't be enough to make love to Rita Hayworth--you'd have to make love to her in black and white."
Harvey knows the exact running time of every movie and will correct programmers if the posted time is wrong or off. In his fifties and bearded, he has an enormous collection of soundtrack albums on vinyl and no record player. He lives with his mother.
Eric, also bearded and in his sixties, holds a special place in his heart for Audrey Hepburn and Ginger Rogers, but he watches any movie, indiscriminately.
Roberta has obsessive compulsive disorder and is in danger of being evicted from her rat's nest apartment, where every surface is taken up with the storage of movie paraphenalia. She has kept the ticket stub from every movie she's ever seen, and she's no spring chicken.
The thing about this documentary that got me is that I know these people. Well, not specifically. But when I worked at a renowned rep house, there were the twins [who have a mania about the temperature of the theatre and a long-standing estrangement from each other]; the imperious extension-school professor given to leaving drunken messages on the programmers' answering machine, then following up with apology notes on embossed stationery; and the lovely man who still shows up for the first show--before five--every Monday night in business attire with a briefcase, sits in the same uncomfortable chair, and stays through the entire double feature, sometimes twice. He'll talk the ear off any staffer who'll let him.
And there are many more. You've seen them, too. Perhaps even dodged them. Unlike film students, they don't go to the movies because they're supposed to, they go to the movies because they have to. The darkness is asylum and escape from a world that's never just like it is on the silver screen.
Movie recommendation: The Purple Rose of Cairo
Moviegoer: I want what happened in the movie last week to happen this week; otherwise, what's life all about anyway?