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Am I a Cinephile?

If you’re like me, the summertime is a great time to pick up a movie and crack open a bag of popcorn. The famous film site IMDB has an incredible amount of data on all types of movies and TV shows. This article explores the question: Am I a Cinephile?

The definition of “cinephile” is someone obsessed with movies.

Is that you?


Of course, not everybody loves movies, and people who don’t know the difference between a film and a video may draw the line at watching one at all. But most of us, at one time or another, have wanted to watch a movie so badly that we’ve been willing to ignore our practical limitations.


Consider, for example, the fact that each film is an individual work of art. Every film is a unique event, and, as events go, it’s not so bad to be caught up in it.


As long as you can somehow access the Internet, you can continue to consume movies. You don’t have to go downtown to see a blockbuster. You can watch it on your couch.


Cinephile is a word invented in the 1980s to describe people who go to movies. It has the implication of devotion, like “fan.” But cinephile is not a word for people who go to the movies. It is a word for people who go to the movies a lot. (The word “fan” is for people who like movies.)


The cinephile’s defining characteristic is enthusiasm, but that word has two meanings:


  • Enthusiasm about a particular thing, and
  • Enthusiasm about a particular kind of activity. “Enthusiastic about opera,” for example, means you enjoy opera. “Enthusiastic about hiking” means you like hiking.


A film fan might like to go to movies, but a cinephile must go to the movies. And cinema itself means something specific. It means movies are distinct from other forms of moving images, whether they are on a screen, a Web site, or a video cassette.


A cinephile is as passionate about movies as any film fan. But where film fans talk about a movie like “Citizen Kane,” cinephiles talk about movies and movies alone. This means the cinephile also cares about things that most film fans don’t.


Cinephiles consider themselves connoisseurs of film, with an acute awareness of film’s particular aesthetic qualities. The cinephile’s knowledge of film history tends to begin with the current era and works outward. The cinephile is more likely to know the Cannes Grand Palm winner than, say, the Oscar winner from 1930.


A cinephile’s knowledge of film history is selective. He may know more about Hollywood than about European cinema. He may know more about Italian neo-realism than about French New Wave. He may know more about Chinese cinema than about American independent cinema. He may know more about art-house cinema than about Hollywood blockbusters. He may know more about European film history than American film history.


A cinephile’s aesthetic sensibility leads him to see films as “art.” He never tires of quoting critics like Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert, and of quoting filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, and of watching films repeatedly.


The cinephile’s aesthetic sensibility leads him to see films as “movies.” He doesn’t think of films as “art” or “entertainment” — just movies. His experiences of movies are visceral, viscerally rich. The cinephile’s experience of the movie is different from anyone else’s



The cinephile’s enthusiasm about films is very different from the enthusiasm of a film fan. A film fan is enthusiastic about films, and anyone enthusiastic about films likes cinephiles. But a cinephile is not enthusiastic about films. The cinephile’s enthusiasm is about cinema itself.