Organized mostly chronologically, the film presents the 40-year career of Henri Langlois (1914-1977), film's first archivist, and the creator of the Cinémathèque Française and Musée du Cinéma. Talking heads, film clips and stills, and archival interviews with Langlois trace his life from 1935, when he starts the Circle of Cinema film club. He begins to buy films, saving many from destruction. During World War II, he finds places to hide them. By mid-1944, the Cinémathèque has 50,000 films. He runs afoul of bureaucrats, but the New Wave comes to his defense. The museum opens in 1972. The film celebrates his philosophy and beliefs, personality and dedication, and his vision. Written by
[referring to the objects in the Museo du Cinéma]
When I started collecting these things, I was criticized - they said, "What's the use? Fetishistic idiocy," etc. My aim was to recreate an atmosphere, transmit a feeling. The artistry is in the actual film. So, Martine Carol's or Marlene Dietrich's dress doesn't send me. What counts is a composite reference. We're matchmakers of illusion.
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I had the chance to check out this fantastic documentary some time back at one of our local art cinemas (unfortunately the U.S. cut). After films about films (Day For Night, anyone?), I love documentaries about films. Make no mistake about it, this is a cinematic love letter to one of French cinema's patron saints. The film features scads of interviews with those who knew & loved (or hated) Langlois. As I watched it, I tried to imagine what it must have been liked to have attended a film at the Cinematic Francais,back in the day (with the likes of Truffaut,Goddard & Rivette sitting just inches away from you). This is a film that any/all serious film fanatics should be going out of their way to see. Perhaps one of these days, we may even get to see the 210 minute French cut of the film one of these days.
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