I have just read a biography about the founder of the Cinematheque Francaise,
Henri Langlois. It is titled "First Citizen of Cinema" Written by
Cinematheque associate Glenn Myrent and Langlois' brother Georges, it is a
superb evocation of what a passion for cinema means and I recommend it
wholeheartedly. It is a Twayne imprint distributed by Simon &
Shuster/Macmillan & Prentice-Hall (has every publisher merged into one?) in
hard cover and paper.
I was Langlois' American representative for his last ten years (he died in
1977). I suppose that makes me an interested party, but I can't help
comparing the excitement and dedication that surrounded this amazing man to
the lacklustre cinema world of today.
Langlois believed with all his heart that every film must be preserved and be
seen. He was the enemy of bureaucrats, academics and critics, although he
co-existed with and often admired all three. He built the world's greatest
archive, saved tens of thousands of films from destruction during the
Occupation of France and caused an international incident when Cultural
Minister Andre Malraux removed him from his post in 1968. The resulting
outcry and violent street demonstrations prefigured the general revolutions
in France of the same year. Can you imagine crowds of ordinary citizens and
the giants of cinema taking to the streets and battling with the police over
the sacking of a museum director in the United States!!??
Langlois is the man of whom Cocteau said "He is the dragon who guards our
treasures." Virtually every filmmaker in the world came to his defense in
1968, forbidding the Cinematheque to screen any of their films until he was
reinstated. The government ultimately gave in.
Read this book and recapture the passion and dedication to films which has
become so endangered today.
Gene Stavis, School of Visual Arts - NYC