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March 1995, Week 5


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 30 Mar 1995 20:28:55 CST
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Yves Lever writes:
<<Alors, faisons une statue a Langlois, mais n'en faisons ni un saint
martyr ni un intellectuel incompris, ni une victime de la bureaucratie...>>
(If I may be allowed to paraphrase for the benefit of non-French speakers),
M. Lever says that Langlois was a brilliant man who taught the world to
treasure and protect the legacy of the cinema. He recounts meeting him and
going through his museum (which he denigrates as "bric a brac".) He then says
that we must blame Langlois because he did not believe in modern methods of
film preservation which led to the destruction of many films in his
collection. This, he says, is the reason he was the enemy of the bureaucrats
and that we shouldn't portray him as a victim of a bureaucracy.
Of course, I disagree strongly with M. Lever (and suggest a reading of the
book I recommended for a detailed refutation of the above.)
Langlois, alone among the world's great archives, refused NO donation of
film. He refused to exercise value judgments on which films were to be saved
or not saved (except when it became absolutely necessary). Furthermore, for
most of its history the CF relied on extraordinarily meager funds to operate,
only briefly being subsidized by the government and then, only a pittance.
(It is interesting that, since his death and the increasing control over the
archive by the government, the subsidies have increased geometrically.
Clearly, it was not a concern for the survival of the films which animated
the bureaucrats against Langlois - it was their hatred of him for not bowing
to their politically inspired edicts.)
Protecting films from the strict archival point of view is very, very
expensive. Had Langlois had the funds he would certainly have done more
preservation. He did not disbelieve in archival protection. However, he made
the judgment that the films ought to be SEEN as his first priority.
Inevitably, some films were destroyed by fire or decomposition while in his
hands (as in every other film archive in the world -- to our everlasting
However, the sheer numbers of films that exist, solely because of his efforts
and the effect his showing them to new generations had on film is undeniable
and cannot be diminished by bureaucratic Monday morning quarterbacking.
Gene Stavis, School of Visual Arts - NYC