A recap on Online Roundtable Day Two:
Mike Everleth has put forward the case for fandom as an engine of cinephilia and togetherness, and speaks of the importance in reclaiming under-appreciated filmmakers of the Underground.
He also ponders is it possible to be a cinephile and never go to the cinema?
Meanwhile, French contributor, Mathieu Ravier is the first to reclaim Cinephile Pride(!) and goes further to suggest cinephilia as an urgent form of activism or resistance.
Is there a need for cinephilia as an active form of protest?
These questions bring me back to my days as an active member of a film club here in Portugal. We had wonderful film cycles (we showed quite rare flms in 16 and 35mm), workshops, seminars and a monthly publication – as cinephiles we felt that we were doing the community an important service. The problem is that there was always a bitter taste to all that voluntary effort. Most sessions had no more than 15-20 spectators. The ones that managed to fill the theatre were those where Hollywood films were shown. Some of the members were very outspoken when assuming responsibility for the good work done there but almost never came to the sessions and rerely worked in producing our monthly publication. I became tired and eventually left the club, remaining solely as a frequent spectator.
The problem with activism is that it often brings along the wrong kind of people. It’s fashionable in certain circles to present yourself as a film club member and in the end do nothing to divulge the love for cinema. To me, cinephilia became an individual effort instead of a larger, more widespread action.
In most places I’d say its easier to be a cinephile who doesn’t go to the theater than it is to try and be one going out to see movies in the era of blockbuster filled multiplexes and 3D extravaganzas.
So, in practice, is there a difference between “fan” and “cinephile?”
Literally speaking, cinephilia is the love of cinema, while fan is normally taken to be a derivative of “fanatic,” which comes from a Latin word with religious connotations, but now means something along the lines of “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.”
Ravier’s post about cinephilia as activism is great.
“A cinephile activist is anyone who lets true cinephilia inform their actions.”
But what is “true cinephilia”? I prefer more the idea of a cinephile activist as someone preaching to the unconverted and fighting the lack of diversity on our screens.
“He also ponders is it possible to be a cinephile and never go to the cinema?”
I really don’t think you do. To be perfectly honest, I’m not even certain that being a cinephile has actually much to do with actually watching movies at all. Just watching movies isn’t enough to make you a “cinephile.” “Cinephilia” is more about taking apart and analyzing movies, getting together and discussing them. None of these activities necessarily involve actually watching movies at all. “Cinephilia” is more a community activity than anything else.
There are thousands of people who watch films very regularly as a recreational activity- even the same genre and calibre as are discussed on this site- without being “cinephiles” as such. As far as I’m concerned, “cinephelia” is engaging with cinema differently- something that transcends just watching movies. It’s about engaging with them outside the theatre, on mediums other than film.
Basically, I think it’s a sort of “otaku”-like activity.
Matt has it.
Can you be a cinephile and not go to the cinema?
Great question, and ultimately I say no. Obviously you can access and be enlightened by film at home, but the experience of the cinema is a part of that—the darkened cavern, the audience, the sound of the projector. I love to sit in the theater.
You made me think of something House. I never am able to hear the sound of the projector while I’m at the theatre. I don’t know if it’s because of how ridiculously loud the sound is or if it’s because it’s tucked away in that little room. The last time I heard a projector in when I sat in a small blacked out chapel and watched Sherlock Jr., Earth, Metropolis, Passion of Jean d’Arc, The Last Laugh and the Cabinet of Dr Caligari all being projected at the same time. And being in the same room with all six of those projectors made me feel like was a part of some kind of forgotten cinema. Now when I go to the theatre, I don’t feel like I’m experiencing that. It has all of the other elements (darkened room, the audience), but with something else. Something I cannot describe. Possibly artificial. I think cinephilia is a personal attribute that doesn’t involve the theatrical experience. It’s the obsession that makes it.
So are you trying to say I’m kicked out of the cinephile club? Last movie I saw in the theater was W back in its first run. Before that was There Will Be Blood I think, or maybe La Vie en Rose. The videostore is closer, cheaper, and has a much better selection of films than the theaters here. Actually I don’t mind not being considered a cinephile since I’m not into the sort of dedicated “cartographic” style of movie watching, I prefer to wander and explore to much to bother with trying to complete director filmographies or things of that sort. I also generally don’t mind waiting to see movies for months or years sometimes after they first come out since there are always other things I’m just as keen to see or rewatch or choose on whim. Not the kind of behavior I’d associate with a “true” cinephile. I guess I’m more of a fan.
Tommy—Yeah, it has to be a small theater and you need to be near the top. I can remember hearing it seeing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The White Ribbon.
Greg: Of course not, holmes. Your license is secure.
I don’t go to the theater often anymore, mostly because it’s too damn expensive and there are far too few films worth it, but I love the experience nonetheless.
Just saw Meek’s Cutoff and in the next month I’ll be seeing Tree of Life and (finally!) Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. I’ve even talked the local meetup group into seeing that one.
@Greg X – No I wouldn’t say that. I think it’s more of the feeling that you’re alone that somewhat constitutes the feeling of being a cinephile. Almost like you’re the only person that feels a certain way about something and you cannot share it with anyone. You’re there sitting with all of these people, but to you, you’re the only person there. this room is, in a way, your home.
I think you’re interpreting the term “cinephelia” as a love of the actual cinema-house rather than of film itself which is encompassed in the term at least by extension…
“…you’re the only person there.”
The way the brain acts when your watching a movie is very much as it acts when you’re dreaming. I agree with you, but there can also be (rare) moments when the communal part of theater-going can add to the experience very much. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case.
Faux—Eh, I’m not hung up on any of these definitions. I’m just making conversation. But part of the love of cinema is certainly seeing the film in the cinema, no?
@ House – I don’t go to the theatre that much either. But in my city we have this theatre that shows ‘exclusive’ films, which are essentially the only shows that I attend. For instance I just saw Lee Chang Dong’s Poetry which isn’t showing anywhere in the city and not even in most cities in general. Every once in a while we’ll get something pretty good though and I’ll have to see it.
Uncle Bonmee though, I don’t think it’ll be showing in the theatre at all here. I was able to get a copy of it at a local video store that specializes in hard to find films from where ever. I personally, wouldn’t want to see it with a group of people let alone one other person.
I can understand that. While I would prefer to watch all films in the theater, certainly there are a few that I would prefer to watch with the theater empty ;)