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Henri Langlois (13 November 1914, İzmirmarker, Turkeymarker – 13 January 1977) was a French pioneer of the film archive movement. He was co-founder of the Cinémathèque Françaisemarker with Georges Franju and Jean Mitry and also co-founded of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) in 1938.

Career at the Cinémathèque Française

Henri Langlois, Georges Franju and Jean Mitry founded the Cinémathèque Françaisemarker, their Paris-based film theater and museum, in 1936. It grew from ten films in 1936 to more than 60,000 films by the early 70s. More than just an archivist, Langlois saved many films which were at risk of vanishing. Besides films, Langlois also helped to preserve other items related to cinema such as cameras, projection machines, costumes and vintage theater programmes. These items would evolve into Langlois' museum collection, which was a two-mile span of film artifacts and memorabilia in the Palais de Chaillot. The collection was relocated due to damage from a fire in 1997.

During the Second World War, Langlois and his colleagues helped to save many films that were at risk of being destroyed due to the Nazi occupation of France.

Langlois made an important impact on the French New Wave directors François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, Claude Chabrol and Alain Resnais among others, and the generation of filmmakers that followed. Some of these filmmakers were called les enfants de la cinémathèque ("children of the cinémathèque"), as they could often be found in the front row of packed screenings.

Removal and Reinstatement

In 1968, French culture minister André Malraux tried to fire Langlois by stopping funding of the project, due to Langlois' arrogance and iron-fisted rule.

Local and international uproar ensued, and even the prestigious Cannes Film Festivalmarker was halted in protest that year. Protests in Paris included the New Wave film-makers and activist Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Support came in telegrams from renowned directors, from Hitchcock to Kurosawa to Fellini. Malraux eventually backtracked and reinstated Langlois after intense debate, while reducing museum funding.

Later life

In 1974, Langlois received an honorary Academy Award for his lifetime work with the Cinémathèque. He died three years later and is interred in the Cimetière du Montparnassemarker in Paris.

Place Henri Langlois in the 13th arrondissementmarker in Paris is named in his honour.

Documentaries about Langlois

In 1970, an English language documentary Henri Langlois was made about his life's work, featuring interviews with Ingrid Bergman, Lillian Gish, François Truffaut, Catherine Deneuve, Jeanne Moreau and others.

In 2004–2005, Jacques Richard directed another documentary of Langlois's career, The Phantom of the Cinémathèque. It features interviews with friends, colleagues, academics, and such movie luminaries as Simone Signoret, Godard, Chabrol, Truffaut and his spiritual successor Jean-Michel Arnold.

In popular culture

  • François Truffaut opens his 1968 film Stolen Kisses with a shot of the shuttered and locked Cinémathèque and dedicates the film to Langlois.
  • Bernardo Bertolucci weaved the closing of the Cinémathèque into the beginning of his 2003 film The Dreamers — a film about young lovers amidst the 1968 French uprisings.

Further reading

  • Richard Roud A Passion for Films: Henri Langlois and the Cinematheque Francaise, 1983, London, Secker and Warburg; New York: Viking Press

See also


  1. FFrance Magazine: La Cinémathèque Française
  2. NY Times 12 October 2005 "It makes a persuasive case for Langlois as one of the most important figures in the history of film"
  3. Imdb Site Full list of contributors

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