Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Henri Langlois: Phantom of the Cinematheque (Jacques Richard, 2004)

"Feed people crap for so long and they lose their taste buds." - Henri Langlois, on the state of French mainstream film

I had, regrettably, never really heard of Henri Langlois before watching this excellent documentary on his life and vast influence on not only French cinema, but the whole world of film. Langlois founded the Cinematheque Francais in the 1940s, and ever since, it has been a global force both in preserving rare films (Langlois made deals with Germans during WWII to get rare films they might otherwise have destroyed) and encouraging a new wave (the French New Wave, in fact) of filmmakers. Both Truffaut and Godard matured as filmmakers and radicals under Langlois' wing, along with countless other auteurs. Langlois gave his entire life up to preserving and promoting film, oftentimes stealing prints that were otherwise going to be thrown away or putting himself into major debt (such as selling a plane ticket home in order to obtain a print) in order to give films to the world. The Henri Langlois Film Museum truly was a sight to behold, a place where there were countless pieces of memorabilia, such as the set from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the mummified mother's face from Psycho, but it was shut down due to the government's barely disguised spite of Langlois (they tried to oust him in 1968, leading to the amazing events in the spring of that year that almost shut down Cannes. I had heard about it on some of the Criterion special features for an Antoine Doinel films, but the archival footage here is simply amazing) and has not been (to my knowledge) reinstated.

This film is really everything a documentary on such a revolutionary man should be: informative, funny (the parts about people imagining Langlois' sexual relationship with Mary Meerson are hilarious), intelligent, and, most importantly, inspiring. The taped interviews with people like Eric Rohmer and Truffaut is often revelatory, and always compelling. It is infuriating how poorly Langlois was treated by the French government, but it really is amazing to see how much one man's tireless efforts can do for a whole industry. American film really needs a Langlois, not only as a father figure, but as a good kick in the ass for a relatively complacent industry. I know this film made me want to make films!


RIYL: French New Wave

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