Synopsis by Mark Deming
Henri Langlois was, in many respects, the ultimate film fan. In 1936, at the age of 22, Langlois became (along with Jean Mitry and Georges Franju) one of the founders of the Cinémathèque Française, a theater and museum devoted to preserving the history of the motion picture. Initially a tiny operation financed by private funds, the Cinémathèque, with time, grew into Europe's most important film archive, collecting and preserving prints of rare films from all over the world and protecting many rare gems of the French cinema from destruction during the Nazi occupation of World War II. Langlois' enthusiasm for sharing the treasures of his collection with others helped spawn a film-crazy generation who created the French New Wave of the '50s, and in time, the French government acknowledged the importance of the Cinémathèque's work by financing their endeavors. In 1968, the French minister of culture, André Malraux, responded to Langlois' difficult personality and sloppy bookkeeping by pulling the government's financing of his projects, which led to an international outcry leading to the shutdown of the Cannes Film Festival by activists and film buffs. The Cinémathèque's funding and Langlois' leadership were later restored, and in 1973, his work in film preservation was honored with a special Academy Award. Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinémathèque is a documentary which chronicles the life, times, and passions of the legendary archivist and includes interviews with his friends, contemporaries, and colleagues -- including Claude Berri, Claude Chabrol, Jack Valenti, and Daniel Cohn-Bendit.
archives, career-retrospective, cinema, culture [arts], film-festival, film-industry, French [nationality], movie-buff, museum, preservation