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Henri Langlois: Phantom of the Cinematheque (Unrated)

Release Date: October 12th, 2005 (Film Forum) by Leisure Time Features.
Directed by Jacques Richard.
In French with subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about Henri Langlois, the founder of the Cinémathèque Française,

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Henri Langlois is much more than a movie buff. From 1936 to the 1970’s, his group of cinema lovers in Cinémathèque Française constantly grew and so did the number of films he was able to get a hold of—it ending up being in the thousands after starting off with just ten! What makes him so important is that he devoted his life to literally preserve many films that would probably have been lost or destroyed forever. In fact, the Nazis were destroying many films back then and Langlois managed to salvage one of them, although he had to make a trade. He also grouped his screenings into separate themes and spoke the coming attracting directly to his audience so that they would come back next time and not miss even one film. His impact on cinema goes much further than that. Many audience members were up-and-coming filmmakers, such as Godard and Rohmer. Langlois fueled their passion for cinema and, especially, to make their own movies. He also helped to build a museum dedicated for film preservation, although it was partially destroyed by a fire and shut down but at least the films were not destroyed. A lot of the interviews are with members of the audience who are now just as involved and engaged by cinema as they were before, but there is also a good use of old footage of Langlois—it’s a good thing that was preserved!. He comes across as a very confident and eccentric man, but also smart, warm and very lively. Director Jacques Richard does a very good job of showing both Langlois’ successes and his failures, but he ultimately shows how Langlois is a true hero of the world of cinema.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: It is very inspiring to watch how Langlois uses his passion for cinema to affect others by bringing them together. He was courageous and persistent, but certainly not perfect. At times, he was stubborn but his passion for life and cinema always remained. When he was replaced by a different leader of the Cinémathèque Française, it was never the same without him.


NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0 —Its running time of 2 hours and 8 minutes breezes by very quickly.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A compelling documentary about an important, passionate man who made a significant impact on the world of cinema.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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