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Cinemania

For many the cinema is a place to escape for a couple of hours and then maybe pick up the DVD later. For someone like Jack Angstreich, it's a lifestyle choice. Cinemania (2002) is a documentary about five peculiar New Yorkers who spend as much of their time as possible theater-hopping. Jack is the focal point — he's the one who seems most aware of the absurdity of what they're doing, and the one who understands that he's partially cut off from the real world, but has a deep and abiding love for cinema that's hooked him for life. In fact, at one point he theories about his love for Rita Hayworth, believing that he's only in love with the black and white version of her. Harvey Schwartz is the most extreme of the group; he's obsessive about films' running-times, collects the records for soundtracks he loves (though doesn't have a record player), and has the least discerning taste of the group. Bill Heidbreder is most fascinated with European cinema and wants to get married to a French woman so he could live abroad, but he can't keep his apartment clean and would rather go to a festival screening than eat. Erik Chadbourne is the most opinionated of the bunch, and the one most willing to watch stuff on video, while Roberta Hill is the most tempestuous — one of the best stories in the documentary is about Roberta getting eighty-sixed from the Museum of Modern Art's theater, only to attempt re-entry later in disguise. Cinemania also explains how these film geeks get by — Jack lives off a trust, Bill is unemployed, while the rest live off disability benefits, though all scheme to see as many movies as they can for free, and most spend their spare time either watching movies or studying movie calendars and making charts to make sure they maximize their screenings. Cinemania never engenders its subjects with any sort of nobility; that may be it's limitation — much of the documentary is geared towards getting the audience to laugh at the five, their peculiarities, and their self-delusions. The film's impact will be felt most by those cinema-obsessed, who can compare their own views on movies and perhaps feel better about themselves if they have successfully had a conversation with the opposite sex in the last five years (an accomplishment that seems beyond most of the cast). Just the same, it's impressive that these admitted voyeurs can make for such an entertaining movie. Wellspring's DVD presents Cinemania in a letterboxed transfer (1.70:1) with 2.0 stereo audio. Supplements feature 45 minutes of cut scenes, including an interview with the cast after a festival screening. Also on board are trailers for this and other Wellspring titles. Keep-case.
—DSH



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