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December 19, 2003

TT: Far removed

Cinetrix writes about obsessive filmgoers:

You've seen them, too. Perhaps even dodged them. Unlike film students, they don't go to the movies because they're supposed to, they go to the movies because they have to. The darkness is asylum and escape from a world that's never just like it is on the silver screen.

(Read the whole thing here.)

No doubt I have these tendencies, too, though I never noticed them until the afternoon a few years ago when I attended a matinee devoted exclusively to Warner Bros. cartoons. Granted, this was in New York, but as I stood in the lobby and looked around me at the visibly peculiar souls drawn by the prospect of spending an hour and a half with Bugs, Daffy, and Wile E. Coyote, I thought to myself, What must I look like to them?

I had this thoroughly unsettling experience in mind when I wrote the first paragraph of "What Randolph Scott Knew," an essay about the Westerns of Budd Boetticher included in A Terry Teachout Reader (preorder your copy today!).

If you long to meet odd people, it's hard to top Manhattanites who go to movies on weekdays. To be sure, I am among their number, but at least I have an excuse: I write about movies. The viewers I have in mind are the pure-hearted obsessives, overwhelmingly male and uniformly unattractive, who flock to revival houses on sunny spring afternoons to take in the latest week-long tribute to Alexander Dovzhenko, Ida Lupino, or maybe Edgar G. Ulmer--it scarcely matters, since the same folks show up every time, no matter what's showing....

It isn't just filmheads, of course. Danceheads and operaheads are the same way, and since I partake of all of the above obsessions, plus a few others, what does that make me? But at least in New York you know you're not alone. I can't think of another city where it's possible to satisfy so many different obsessions so thoroughly, or to be a member of so many different social groups whose membership doesn't overlap at all. I first noticed this at my fortiety birthday party (one of the very few parties, incidentally, that I've ever thrown, or had thrown for me). I didn't know a room could have so many different corners, much less that each could be inhabited with its very own gaggle of recognizably similar people.

Perhaps all my obsessions cancel one another out and leave in their wake the residue of an approximately normal human being. But I wouldn't count on it.

Posted December 19, 2003 9:41 AM

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