Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinematheque

Director: Jacques Richard


Part I of Le Fantôme d’Henri Langlois covers the first three decades of the founding (by Langlois and Georges Franju) of the Cinematheque Française. Early highlights include rescuing The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the discovery that no aesthetic judgments should be made: just try to save everything, and Langlois’s collecting funds to pay for the funeral of the destitute Georges Melies (recounted by Melies’s granddaughter). The years of Nazi occupation were especially trying, but the enemy was outwitted by imaginative strategies, includingmislabelling or hiding film cans, moving contraband prints around Paris in a baby carriage (recounted by Simone Signoret) and – via a Nazi film lover – acquiring the original negative of The Blue Angel.The fifties were the glory years, bringing the germination of the auteur theory through exhibitions of the complete works of directors like Howard Hawks and John Ford and the subsequent blooming of the talents who were to become the New Wave.
Part II is dominated by the 1968 protests that united university students, Parisian workers and the filmmaking community. Despite years of support and friendship, cultural minister Andre Malraux was somehow convinced that Langlois had to be replaced and a newCinematheque president installed. A tidal wave of support for Langlois came not only from Paris, but from the rest of the world. Eventually Langlois was reinstated, his magnificent dream of a cinema museum was realised and he got to pin the medal of the Legion d’honneur on Alfred Hitchcock. With lively contributions from a wealth of participants, in a simple talking heads and clips format, three-and-a-half hours just fly by.
Director Jacques Richard will take part in a question and answer session after the screening.

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