Archive for May, 2013


A Serious Case of Cinephilia

Mia Farrow with a serious case of cinephilia in Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo

Mia Farrow with a serious case of cinephilia in Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo

When I applied to graduate school in Cinema Studies back in 2001, I knew that I didn’t necessarily have the relevant educational experience, so I decided to put myself out there in the application’s personal statement. In my last semester of undergrad, I thought I was going in one career direction, but life had different plans, and I was stuck not knowing where I was going or what I wanted to do. After graduation, I decided to try an internship at a local film and TV production company and spent a year as assistant to the general manager, who also happened to be a producer. I walked away knowing that production’s long hours and intense demands weren’t a good fit with my personality, but I did realize that I wanted to take my love of movies (my cinephilia) and study film from a scholarly perspective, ideally in a city I loved. I was lucky to be able to do just that when my first-choice graduate program accepted me. And even though 9/11 almost sidetracked me, it didn’t stop me.

My department held weekly movie screenings all day Saturdays, during which actual films from the archives were shown to anyone who was interested, including members of the public. You could tell that like me, the regulars, who were mostly older members of the public, had serious cases of cinephilia, but they took it to a whole other level. Encased in the dark, cramped room, I was only able to sit through maybe two movies before needing to be let out into the sunlight. But some of those folks stayed all day each and every week. You knew it was serious when the sound of plastic bags being rummaged through for smuggled-in food would break the silence of an emotionally pivotal scene or piece of dialogue. Annoying, yes, but I had to tip my hat to their dedication and conviction. However, one day, something minor went wrong with the film’s projection, and one of the regulars decided the best thing to do would be to yell at the student projectionist. I decided the best thing to do would be to state that that wasn’t necessary before quickly exiting. I didn’t go back because while I could understand how the abrupt interruption of a filmic moment could lead to frustration, I couldn’t understand treating a student projectionist like that.

A few years later, I saw a small, digitally made documentary that I believe was called Cinephilia, but I’m not sure since I can’t seem to locate it now. Cinephilia (I’ll go ahead and call it that until I hear otherwise) showed a group of movie buffs, much like the Saturday morning regulars, who were so into movies that not only did they attend all-day screenings throughout New York City (Film Forum, Museum of Modern Art, etc.) but some of them considered it there full time jobs as well as their social lives. Who knows – some of those Saturday morning regulars might have been featured in Cinephilia; I just didn’t recognize them in the light!