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Biography

Jump to: Overview (2) | Mini Bio (1) | Trivia (9) | Personal Quotes (3)

Overview (2)

Date of Birth 13 November 1914Smyrna, Ottoman Empire [now Izmir, Turkey]
Date of Death 13 January 1977Paris, France  (heart attack)

Mini Bio (1)

Founder of the Cinématheque Française; the foremost and most famous film archivist of all time. Personally responsible for saving thousands of films, and popularizing the enjoyment of esoteric and lost masterpieces.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jeff Massie <jmassie@primenet.com>

Trivia (9)

Co-founder of the French Cinematheque in 1936.
Was the recipient of an Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences at the 46th Academy Awards ceremony held on April 2, 1974, for his work with the Cinematheque Francaise, the world's most prestiguous film archive. The Academy citation that accompanied the Oscar statuette praised Langlois for "his untiring devotion to the art of film, for his massive contributions towards preserving its historical past and for his unswerving faith in its future."
In early 1968, Langlois was effectively fired as head of the Cinematheque Francaise by French Minister of Culture Andre Malraux. Citing administrative incompetence, Malraux terminated the archive's subsidy and moved to appoint a new head. Malraux objected to Langlois running the Cinematheque, a Paris movie archive, as his own private fiefdom. He and Georges Franju had co-founded the archive in 1936 with 10 movie prints from Langlois' own private collection. Malraux was incensed that Langlois kept poor records and had refused entree to specialists, while allowing his own friends, or "phantoms," to have free run of the place. By 1968, Langlois had built the Cinematheque into the premier movie archive in the world, with over 60,000 prints. Langlois was one of the pioneers of film preservation, and while he had rescued many films from destruction, he was never one to respect the niceities of copyright law. Like most film collectors before the advent of commercially available videocassette recorders and home video tapes, he had engaged in black marketing, bootlegging, piracy and smuggling. The firing sparked protests from Parisian film students, from others among Paris' half-million strong student community who frequented the Cinematheque to view the films, and from such French film luminaries as Francois Truffaut and Jean Paul Belmondo. The French nouvelle vague directors had learned about the movies at the Cinematheque, and they vocally supported Langlois. French directors Chabrol, Demy, Godard, and Truffaut proudly proclaimed themselves as "children of the Cinémathèque." The turmoil helped trigger the student riots of May 1968. Malraux was forced to back down, and Langlois was reinstated.
He had a wish to make a 35mm color-film with painter Marc Chagall. Chagall came with the idea to portray his life by means of his paintings. Langlois started filming in 1952 and in 1954 he asked Joris Ivens to supervise and edit the already large amount of shot material. In 1958, when Ivens (with assistant Tinto Brass) edited most of it, and Langlois finished the last recordings, the film suddenly disappeared. It was never found again.
On August 3rd, 1980, his Paris Cinémathèque went up in smoke and thousands of film stock were destroyed. Since his death, in 1977, the Cinémathèque had been in dire financial crises and the lost stock had not been insured. France's Minister of Culture gave an emergency funding of some four million francs. This was to help fund a new building in Bois-d'Arcy.
Film historian John Nangle said in the February 1984 issue of "Films in Review," Like all true fanatics, Langlois lacked the personal charm and social graces sometimes necessary to accomplish the political ends he frequently desired. To Henri Langlois the only purpose in life was to preserve and exhibit films. Often he seemed to care more for films than people, and his enthusiasm didn't allow for romance, family life, or personal friendships that interfered with his great passion.
When French Cultural Minister Malraux tried to remove Langlois from his directorship position at the Cinematheque because of his poor management of the bureaucracy, Langlois disciples like Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, and Jean-Luc Godard caused a public uproar that saved their mentor's position.
Langlois largely ignored a 1951 French law that outlawed possession of highly combustible nitrate prints.
Langlois is credited with resurrecting and ultimately preserving the film legacies of Abel Gance, Louis Feuillade, Erich Von Stroheim, and Louise Brooks.

Personal Quotes (3)

Films are like Persian rugs: you keep them at their best by using them. Before you can show an old film, it has to exist -- that is, it has to have been conserved (in the archival sense). And in order to conserve it, first it has to have been "collected" (in the going-out-of-one's-way-to-rescue-and-save-what-others-discard sense). The cinema is a means towards the acquisition of knowledge in the manner of Saint Thomas: by touch. Read all you like about love, but if you haven't made love, your idea of it will be totally false.
[on Louise Brooks] There is no Greta Garbo! There is no Marlene Dietrich! There is only Louise Brooks.
I have never said this movie is good, this movie is bad; they discover by themselves. I have not helped, I have not taught. I have put food on the table, and they have taken the food and eaten.

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