WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
I've always considered myself an avid cinephile, but after viewing the entertainingly disturbing documentary Cinemania, I think I need to adjust that self-definition. In comparison with the subjects of this film, I'm more of an occasional purveyor of movies. Yeah, I watch a film once in a long while. That's all. It's not an obsession or anything.
Cinemania focuses on five odd New Yorkers who make a living out of going to the movies. And by living, I mean that moviegoing consumes every waking moment of their lives. Consider the case of Bill Heidbreder, the young man who yearns for a European bride who will bring him heretofore unknown passion but who will also understand his need to see multiple films per day. There's Erik Chadbourne, fussy and opinionated about his taste in films, while everything else in his life is in utter disarray. Harvey Schwartz lives with his mom and is someting of a film-obsessed idiot savant, having memorized the running times of hundreds of films. He has a weirdly rare LP collection of soundtracks, but he can't play them because he doesn't own a turntable. The lone female of the group is Roberta Hill, a loudmouthed drawler who craves attention and yet seems to want nothing to do with fellow lovers of film. And the center of the film is occupied by Jack Angstreich, the most well adjusted of the five, who nevertheless exhibits an alarming degree of obsession and removal from reality when he admits that he wants to transform his hopelessly pear-like physique into that of Marky Mark. To score with the chicks, no doubt.
There's a strange underlayer of sexual dissatisfaction running through Cinemania, as these poor people frantically search through movie schedules to plan their lives week-by-week. These are unrepentant nerds, each of whom, in his or her own way, expresses a certain longing for the opposite sex, be it with a real flesh-and-blood person or with the black-and-white ideal of the filmed Rita Hayworth. This subtext might have been a striking avenue to explore, except that it, like the rest of the film, is played mostly for laughs. Cinemania never strives for much more than for us to chuckle at its subjects.
I wanted more from Cinemania, although I admit to finding it diverting in a sadly humorous way. A flaw of the film is that we only rarely get any perspective. We're too focused on the freaks and not enough on those around them. The rare instances of perspective—a theater owner admitting that he gauges the success of his scheduling by whether the subjects attend his films, a former theater employee relating a startling story about the purposeful Roberta—leave us wanting more, instead of repeated looks into the increasingly pathetic lives of moviegoers who know practically nothing else. In the end, Cinemania is too much about Here they are and not enough about Why they are.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Wellspring presents Cinemania in a substandard nonanamorphic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 1.70:1 theatrical presentation. The film is a shot-on-video affair, with all the flaws inherent to such a presentation. You'll notice many instances of aliasing and artifacting, and the typical hard-edgedness of video. Detail is pretty good, however, making the documentary, at the very least, quite watchable for what it is. Flesh tones seem a bit too red.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc's Dolby Digital 2.0 audio presentation offers good fidelity and clear, clean dialog, straight from the center. The score fares especially well, sounding wide and rich.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
The disc's only supplement of note is a plethora of Deleted Scenes, 45 minutes worth of scenes that are just as humorous as any scene in the main feature but cut for length, I presume. There are some real side-splitters here, and a special treat is an extended sequence at the end, in which the entire cast and the director and producer are interviewed following a festival screening.
You also get the film's Theatrical Trailer.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
Cinemania is a mildly entertaining look at people who are really into our favorite hobby. It's strangely one-sided, though, and ends feeling incomplete. The DVD presentation is only fair, offering below-average image quality (letterboxed?! Come on!) and watch-once supplements.