In Cinemania, you harbor a strong dislike toward Walt Disney and what he represented in terms of what his company churned out and who he was as a man. Despite all that, was there anything that you did like about what he created? ^ It would be misleading to suggest that everything Walt Disney produced is worthless. I rather like “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence from “Fantasia”, for example, and there are other achievements. I’m relatively hostile to many of the Disney Studios productions of the past couple of decades, but I rather like Wes Anderson, who has been financed by Disney.
Now it’s time for the inevitable question: Are you recognized more often because of this documentary? ^ Yes, evidently I am more recognized than formerly but I have scarcely become a celebrity, unless those who know who I am are remaining silent, which is certainly quite possible.
What are currently your favorite movies? ^ I guess “Once Upon a Time in the West” (Sergio Leone), “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (Jacques Demy), “Meet Me in St. Louis” (Vincente Minnelli), “Pickpocket” (Robert Bresson), “Meshes of the Afternoon” (Maya Deren), “On Dangerous Ground” (Nicholas Ray), “Mechanics of Love” (Willard Maas), “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (Stan Brakhage), “Bob Le Flambeur” (Jean Pierre Melville), “Lola” (Jacques Demy), “Belle de Jour” (Luis Bunuel), “Out of the Past” (Jacques Tourneur), “His Girl Friday” (Howard Hawks), “Rio Bravo” (Hawks), “Romeo et Jupettes” (Jacques Rozier), “Masculin Feminin” (Jean-Luc Godard), “Scorpio Rising” (Kenneth Anger), “Bus Stop” (Joshua Logan), “Darling Lili” (Blake Edwards), “The Crucified Lovers” (Kenji Mizoguchi), “Age of Innocence” (Martin Scorsese), and “The Saragossa Manuscript” (Wojciech Has) are among my current favorites.
How about theatres? ^ Right now, my favorite theatres are The Walter Reade, the Ziegfeld, Loewe’s E-Walk, and Loewe’s 34th Street. The quality of projection has declined markedly at several theatres since Cinemania was completed and I have been forced to end my patronage of those places. Internationally known institutions, such as the Film Forum, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The American Museum of the Moving Image, Anthology Film Archives, and The Museum of Modern Art, should be embarrassed by their butchery of a great art through negligence, perversity, and misplaced priorities.
Why do you feel that projection quality has declined at these theatres? ^ Mainly their inability or unwillingness to cut correct aperture plates so the image remains on the screen rather than spilling over onto the masking.
Bill Heidbreder, another cinephile, while exhibiting the same passion for cinema as the rest of you do, does touch on other interests of his throughout. Is cinema absolutely positively your sole interest? ^ It might surprise some viewers that, in many respects, I do not consider cinema my primary interest. I experience an equal or greater commitment to philosophy, the world of ideas, and the pursuit of knowledge, but because of the distinctive situation of cinema as an art, I am compelled to attend many screenings, which cannot be postponed without forgoing the films, while my reading and research can be.
There’s a piece in your interviews in the film that hit me deeply, when you talked about being burned out. I actually had this happen to me at one point where I wondered what the point was in seeing all these movies. The storylines seemed to blend together and it all was just “blah” to me. It got so that I actually thought of turning to the religious sect to become a rabbi. However, after going without movies for a brief time, I realized that I couldn’t fathom living without this art. What transpired during your burnout? ^ When I first began to see films I only was seeing about 350 features per year. In college, I took a course on Bresson and Godard, and my professor mentioned, that Godard in the 1950s and he himself, in his youth, would see 1,000 films a year. I realized that I must be missing many important screenings and began to increase my attendance. But after one thousand feature-length programs in eight months, I was really fatigued by cinema and consumed with the desire for other experiences, but, as always, I ultimately drifted back into intense spectatorship. The insufficiency of life without cinema only encourages the renewal of one’s energies.
You have quite a fixation on actors and actresses and in one sequence, you pick up a book that’s out of print and point out a few character actors to the audience, such as Elsa Lanchester. You also talk of only being able to make love to these actresses in black-and-white, if you had the chance. Do the appearances of certain actors or actresses spur you to make your movie choices based on that? ^ Although I do indeed have a romance with actors, actresses, and performers, I never see a film because of a star. My primary criterion is directors. I am an auteurist. In the event that I see a film by a director whose work I have no allegiance to, it is because I have a strong expectation that the film will be unusually good, for whatever reason.
How are the other cinemaniacs doing? What’s been going on with Bill, Roberta, Harvey, and Eric? ^ Most everyone is, generally speaking, more or less the same. Roberta has found new housing, which she is not entirely happy with. I have probably changed the most: I’m seeing fewer films because of projection difficulties, have lost most of my excess weight, and have achieved considerable progress in my aim to have a body like Marky Mark had.
The stacks of this and that in Roberta’s old apartment were enormous! She barely fit through the door of her place, when she opened it. Has she kept up with that type of living? ^ Apparently she lost a lot of stuff — I think most of it, but I think her new room is already filled to the rafters.