Jack Angstreich is one of the stars of Cinemania, a 2002 documentary by Stephen Kijak & Angela Christlieb about New York film buffs, each on their own obsessive daily quest to track down and view multiple film screenings around the city. The documentary is an incredibly compelling and empathetic look at this amazing group of people and is certainly one of my favourite documentaries of recent times. Recently, I was able to quickly catch up with Jack and talk a little more about his obsession with the movies and his reaction to Cinemania.
Can you believe that 10 years have passed since Cinemania was released?
Ten years has sort of flown by, in some ways, I suppose.
Bill seems to be a little bit embarrassed about having been part of the documentary. What is your overriding feeling about Cinemania ten years on?
I'm not especially embarrassed by Cinemania but Bill labors under the delusion that he has both been misrepresented by the film and that he has fundamentally changed since the film. I don't know that I feel differently about the film now.
Have you had any disputes with people in theatres lately?
I try to avoid getting into disputes.
What do you consider good theatre etiquette?
I would prefer silence from other film goers but it's impossible to expect once food is allowed to be consumed in the theatres.
Are you recognised much as a result of the documentary?
It is only occasionally that someone approaches me saying they have recognized me from Cinemania.
What’s the best movie theatre New York?
The Walter Reade is the only repertory theatre that seems to have satisfactory projection in New York at the moment, so far as I know, but I find the programming at Film Forum 2 generally more exciting -- I haven't seen a film there in years, however, because of incorrectly cut aperture plates that they refused to replace despite their assurance that they would.
Do you still run into Bill, Eric, Roberta, or Harvey?
Bill is in Paris at the moment and I haven't seen Harvey in quite a while but I do see Eric from time to time; Roberta passed away recently, I'm sad to report.
Do you consider film to be voyeuristic?
I don't think the cinema is voyeuristic in its essence, necessarily, but it seems to easily invite an indulgence in voyeurism.
Typically when I watch a great film in a theatre there’s usually a part of me that says, “I want to sit here for the rest of my life and watch movies that are this great.” This clearly must have happened to you at some point. Can you describe that moment?
I must have had an experience similar to what you describe when I was 17 but I'd have to try and think back.
There’s a wonderful scene in La Nuite Americaine (Day For Night) where Ferrand (Truffaut) tries to convince Alphonse to stay on the film and says, “Movies go along like trains in the night” and explains that movies never have dead moments like real life. Is this suspension of reality part of the attraction of cinema for you?
Yes, I think I am attracted to the "suspension of reality" to which you refer.
What is the literal translation of your surname?
I'm told it translates as "fearful".
Your political views are touched upon briefly in the documentary. How would you describe your political views?
I'm basically a Marxist-Leninist in politics.
What’s your take on review sites like Rotten Tomatoes & IMDB and do you ever read or submit reviews?
I suppose sites like Rotten Tomatoes are useful for compiling links to reviews but the rankings and averages irritate me since they reflect nothing more than what the majority of established critics happen to think and that seems of no interest at all. I regret to say that I do write short reviews but I only do this to be admitted to press screenings.
The film industry has obviously changed a lot since the release of Cinemania when DVD was still in its infancy. What do you make of the DVD ‘experience’?
I guess DVD extras are an exciting phenomenon, potentially, as well as the release on DVD of the better television and analog or digital video productions but I haven't gotten around to looking at much on DVD and wouldn't be willing to watch non-digitally-processd material that was shot on celluloid with the intention to be exhibited on celluloid.
Have you ever sat down and watched a full movie on YouTube? Could you ever subscribe to watching movies at home or are you of the David Lynch school of thought?
I've never watched a feature-length film on YouTube. Viewing works on television or on a computer screen is fine for analog video or digitally-produced works; I thought David Lynch was promoting this now, to my dismay.
The Cinemania DVD is available through Amazon HERE