Recently I went to a doctor and discovered that I have a disease. This disease is has no cure and is terminal. I have… cinephilia. The only treatment is a regular and sometimes obsessive dose of watching films. The doctor says it is very common in mid-twenties loafer types who decide to write down their feelings about the future of film or how the only great mustaches are handle bar ones that Chuck Norris rocks. She says that I will do nothing for the rest of my years but annoy my family members, lovers, and friends with odd allusions to Ozu shots or Bette Davis lines. I am doomed to live a life where I am not afraid to offend someone by telling that their favorite movie sucks and tell them line by line as to why it does. Side effects include: long lists, encyclopedic knowledge of every major modern filmmaker including what most critics think of their filmographies, and long long hours sitting in a dark room with the sound turned way up watching images flicker past me.
When I was younger, I looked up to a couple of people. Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Quentin Tarantino. I found out pretty quickly that I had absolutely no musical talent, so I could never be like my first two idols. But I did really enjoy films. There is an anecdotal story that floats around Tarantino that I latched onto pretty quickly. When he was younger, he worked in a video store. Every chance he got, he would slip in the back and watch the tapes people were returning as he rewound them. He would sit there for hours and just watch movies. He attributed his understanding of structure, plot and filmmaking in general to those long hours in the back of a video store. When I heard this story, I thought “Wow. I could do that.” From then on, I would steal my parent’s membership to the local video store and spend hours wondering the halls. I would use up a consider the amount of my spending money on being able to watch these movies over and over again. As I discovered foreign language films and prestige films, I began to feel a need to have some sort of direction; someone who could tell me what to see and what to skip. This is where a newer invention came into play. I was in high school at the same time that classic iPods were becoming popular. They were still impossibly expensive at least in our young eyes, but they were also insanely hip, especially among the proto-hipster crowd that I loosely belonged to. All of the serious music addicts had one and I must too. That year for Christmas that was the only thing I asked for and the only thing I got. I was thrilled. I busied myself by converting my cd collection into digital and discovering this thing I had never heard of before, podcasts. Podcasts opened up a new world for me. I listened to audiobooks, history lessons, tons of comedy, and most importantly movie podcasts. One of the first movie podcast I listened to was Filmspotting. Filmspotting taught me how to think about movies and inspired me to seek out the films on their top five lists at the end of the show. I began to make very long lists on yellow legal pads (even now I am strange person because I love to make lists on paper. The act of physically marking something off floors me) of films that I wanted to see. The problem was that my local video store had a very limited selection that was getting more and more limited by the intrusion of another very important innovation in my life, Netflix. My freshman year of college, I bought a Netflix subscription. This was the first monthly bill I ever acquired. (I wish that was the only one I have now…) And it gave me an opportunity to see films that would never have been in my video store. My yellow legal pad list soon became a long and lumbering Netflix queue and I began voraciously consuming movies. I also gained access to a college library section. Ten to twelve different movies a week would quickly become the norm. When I wasn’t watching movies, going to class, working my super easy work-study job or hanging out with my very small group of friends, I was on the internet seeking out more and more movies, learning about famous actors and directors lives and learning how to think about movies. My cinephilia got a hold of me and hasn’t let go ever since.
Don’t get me wrong, I have experienced movie overload before. There have been whole months where I wouldn’t be able to watch anything new. Those Netflix envelopes would stay unopened on my kitchen counter. I couldn’t read anything more about Sven Nykvist’s use of light in Bergman movies or how this year (enter any year you choose here) has been the worst year for movies. I just couldn’t do it. But then I would feel guilty that I was paying for something that was collecting dust or I would watch a trailer on television that intrigued me (a hard thing for me these days to do, so many trailers and movies that advertise on television are lame) and I would pick up the habit again. One good movie would invigorate me and send me down that rabbit hole once more. I think everyone gets sick of their passions every once in a while and that is normal. But to get sick of something and then return to it again, that is when you know that you were meant to have that passion. Even if it is sick and obsessive like my cinephilia is.
I find endless joy in research and watching movies because they make me happy. I am able to travel in time and space. I am able to see what it was like in Paris in the late fifties or Alaska at the turn of the last century. I am able to get inside someone’s head and live someone else’s life for a couple of hours. I am able to see what it would be like to be a truck driver, a serial killer or a movie actress. I am able to learn things about myself and realize that I am not as different from the people who surround me. I don’t feel so alone when I am immersed in a fantasy world. I am at peace with myself when I watching a movie. For some people reading, listening or making music, or blowing glass gives you this sense of peace. For me it is movies.I am proud to call myself a cinephile. Because I am a sick person.