Watching the Apocalypse

Feeding our end-days dreams are movies that dare to imagine the end, apocalyptic cinema like Steve De Jarnatt’s Miracle Mile or Zbynek Brynych’s . . . A Páty Jezdec Je Strach (The Fifth Horseman Is Fear). Movie know-it-alls can order these films from Netflix with no human interaction whatsoever. But we are social by nature, inclined to browsing and relying on the kindness and film knowledge of educated strangers. This is why we love Cinefile, which is leading the resistance movement here in Los Angeles against the reductionist threat of the point-and-click juggernaut.

Co-owner Hadrian Belove, with Philip Anderson, launched the violently eclectic video-rental store in 1999 as video stores were closing en masse throughout the Southland (“Video holocaust and video apocalypse,” laughs Belove), just before the transition to DVD. The store is arranged by directors, the clerks are friendly and informative rather than disdainful and petty, and they participate in choosing the films Cinefile carries. This is one reason the store excels at carrying hard-to-find imports and other rare films — another is that when worthy films are difficult to obtain, Cinefile buys movies directly from individual filmmakers all over the world.

“Everything you see on the floor is unusual and rare,” Belove promises, “and probably came from a customer.”

If a movie turns up with murky rights or ownership status, Cinefile loans it out for free, making zero money but still successfully spreading interesting culture. According to Belove, this is how Cinefile helped David Cross and Bob Odenkirk to secure a DVD deal for Mr. Show when HBO apparently had lost interest in the series — the store got copies of numerous episodes from the creators and then loaned them out for free, building demand for an official release.

Surprisingly, there’s minimal pilfering of videos from the store by customers — hence Cinefile’s encouraging sense of community in the face of the mass chaos of torrents and rips across the Internet. Soon, Belove promises, the store plans to revive its special events: Halloween parties, filmmaker appearances and Cinefile’s ongoing screening series at Silent Movie. And to better expand the intellectual curiosity of its clientele, Cinefile sells Philips all-region DVD players (for those pesky Hmong bootlegs). Not to be forgotten are the store-designed director T-shirts: Fassbinder in the style of the Metallica logo, Werner Herzog in the style of Danzig, Ingmar Bergman in the style of Iron Maiden, and Lars von Trier as Van Halen. Up next: Wong Kar-Wai as Wu-Tang Clan. What better decorations for the brittle flesh blasted from your bones on Judgment Day?

And what final film would Belove want to watch at The End?

It’s a Wonderful Life,” he says. “It’s so overrated it’s underrated.”

11280 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (310) 312-8836 or

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