This documentary hits a little too close to come…
This is an unusual documentary because at least two different versions exist—one that is about an hour long and was shown on television another that is 83 minutes and comes on DVD. Believe it or not, I actually prefer the shorter one, as it’s more compact and makes its point quite well. The longer one has an additional cast member and seems to wander just a bit. Either, however, make excellent viewing.
Like many of the best documentaries I’ve seen, there is no narrator. Instead, the film simply lets the participants talk—and talk they do. The cast consists of several odd New Yorkers. They are odd because their entire lives revolve around the movie theater and they spend most of their time going to the many, many theaters in the city—often five or six or more in a single day! However, these folks are not interested in just the normal films offered by Hollywood but love indies, foreign films and classics. What also is unusual is that outside of the theaters, they seem to have little—and several live in poverty in order to live this life. What they go through to feed this obsession is what makes the film fascinating. One guy eats foods that constipate him just so he won’t need to use the bathroom during a show. Another has memorized the running times of every film he has seen. Another has gotten into fights with a theater employee because she ripped the woman’s ticket—and NO ONE is allowed to rip her tickets! As a result, by the way, the old lady physically attacked this employee! But my favorite is the guy who feels he would be entirely justified to kill anyone who talks during a show. Now he admits that he won’t do this because the law will not allow such behavior—but he truly wishes he could! So how do these folks feed this obsessive habit? Well, one is wealthy and is living off an inheritance. However, the rest are either on disability payments or are doing this quest only so long as their unemployment benefits continue!
I used to use this film as a teaching aid when I taught psychology. After completing units on the various mental illnesses and personality disorders, I’d play the film and afterwards we’d discuss the motivations and illnesses the students saw in the documentary. However, I retired a few years ago and, oddly, have devoted far too much of my time to watching films. While I think I have a very interesting life (I travel, fish and make my own beer, among many other things), I can’t help but notice that my own film obsession is, at times, a bit too similar to the folks in the film—especially since no one—not one single person—has written more reviews on IMDB than me. And, when one of the folks in Cinemania talks about crying as he watched The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, I also can relate to this experience! However, I do have a family, friends and many outside interests. Plus, I rarely go to the theater—seeing most of my films at home. But it does give me reason to pause and think.
So will you enjoy this film? I can practically guarantee it. I’ve shown the film to many folks and everyone seemed fascinated by the participants and it’s a truly exceptional documentary. At times, it’s like a train wreck that you cannot help but watch but at others you feel for these people—especially since some of them do seem troubled that they have so little else in their lives. I bought my own copy but it can also be rented from Netflix. Enjoy and let me know what you think.
Martin's Grade: A
Review by Lead Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Martin HaferShare: