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Isild Le Besco,
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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 his trip to receive an Oscar in 1974]
When I arrived in L.A. I thought that the Oscar was like our Legion of Honor. But it's much more important than that because everyone and his brother gets one of those eventually. An Oscar is truly a serious matter. I didn't realize how much it meant. It's comparable to being chosen as a master craftsman by one's fellows in the time of the guilds.
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Brilliant and heartbreaking film about a true genius
I'm actually too emotional to be writing this at this moment, having just seen the film. It is clear that without the extraordinary efforts of Henri Langlois, many of the great achievements in cinema would never have survived. Though he was a genius, he always had to deal with the Sisyphean struggle against pettiness and institutional lameness, but especially a lack of, ironically, VISION, to understand the importance of preserving films as a legacy for the future. It is a must-see for anyone who is passionate about film, but it is heartbreaking to experience the struggle. One cannot fathom how it is possible that although he had remarkable support from some of the most important film makers of SEVERAL generations, in the end, the struggle was too much to bear. It is a lesson/warning: When someone of such immense passion and drive subordinates everything for something greater than himself, we, in society, must pay attention. It's not as though he was a great painter who never sold a painting in his lifetime and died never knowing how he may have affected people through his work. Langlois did have champions, but that just wasn't enough because his task was so enormous. This film deserves a better comment. It is at once exhilarating and crushing.
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