From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Born in İzmir, Turkey, he started his archives with private funds and only a handful of films, but over the next few decades the collection grew to many thousands of titles, and the French government started financing it.
Henri Langlois, Georges Franju, and Jean Mitry founded the Cinémathèque Française (a Paris-based film theater and museum) in 1936. It grew from ten films in 1936 to more than 60,000 films by the early 70s. More than just an archivist, Langlois saved, restored and showed many films that were at risk of disintegration. Besides films, Langlois also helped to preserve other items related to cinema such as cameras, projection machines, costumes and vintage theater programmes.
Langlois made an important impact on the French 1960s New Wave directors, including François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, Claude Chabrol and Alain Resnais among others, and the generation of filmmakers that followed. Some of these filmmakers were called les enfants de la cinémathèque ("children of the cinémathèque").
In 1968, French culture minister Andre Malraux tried to fire Langlois by stopping funding of the project, allegedly due to Langlois' arrogance and iron-fisted rule. Local and international uproar ensued, and even the prestigious Cannes Film Festival was halted in protest that year. Malraux backtracked and reinstated Langlois.
In 1970, an English language documentary entitled Henri Langlois was made about his life's work, featuring inteviews with Ingrid Bergman, Lillian Gish, François Truffaut, Catherine Deneuve, Jeanne Moreau and others. In 1974, Langlois received an honorary Academy Award for his lifetime work with the Cinémathèque. Place Henri Langlois in the 13th arrondissement in Paris is named in his honour.
He is interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris.
In popular culture
- François Truffaut opens his 1968 film Stolen Kisses with a shot of the shuttered and locked Cinémathèque and dedicates the film to Langlois.
- Bernardo Bertolucci weaved the closing of the Cinémathèque into the beginning of his 2003 film The Dreamers — a film about young lovers amidst the 1968 French uprisings.