on November 7, 2014
I received my book sooner than expected. I was quite surprised it was once a Beverly Hills, CA library book. Wow, I was so surprised, happy, and very excited. I read this book for a research project for a film class at UC Berkeley. Reading Roud's on M. Langlois is a must read for a cinephile/film student. I was surprised to learn the Pacific Film Archive received assistance from M. Langlois in its formation from reading this book. He furnished films and introduced people to the founders of the Pacific Film Archive.
I would welcome an opportunity to order from this seller again. What a grand surprise to receive the earlier edition and a Beverly Hills library book to boot. Thank you very much, merci beaucoup.
on February 11, 2015
Good insight into the Cinematheque Francaise. I like that the biography is told more from primary sources and interviews rather than having a narrative forced into it. It is a little formless and anti-climactic, but so is life to an extent. Some fun facts, some good information, a good primer on this cinematically important institution.
After viewing the highly recommended Henri Langlois: Phantom of the Cinematheque DVD I wanted to know more about the mysterious man who seems to have singlehandedly preserved innumerable classics of early cinema from the trash can of history. But this biography is rather slight mainly because there is not that much to tell about this man who really had no other interests or life outside of the cinematheque. Mostly what you get here are instances of his profound paranoia (he thought everyone was trying to steal his films) and instances of his profound disorganization (only Langlois knew exactly what films he had and where any particular film was at any given time). But nothing here is particularly revelatory.
I suppose the abiding interest in Langlois stems from the fact that he was an impassioned and independent amatore and that his life was organized (or not organized) according to his lifelong passion and not according to any professional or academic code of conduct. This makes him an attractive figure to artists for Langlois really had an artistic temperament which is to say that he was eccentric and temperamentally at odds with everything and everyone around him. Langlois wrote very little so he is not a name that film students and historians are likely to come across unless they are specifically interested in the history of film archives (Langlois was not the first to create a film archive but he was one of the first to understand the need to value and to preserve film history). Langlois's legacy is fourfold:
1)Langlois' primary legacy is the fact that he saved so many films from oblivion and since he refused to discriminate between a director's major and minor works (he knew that these kinds of judgments changed from generation to generation) he saved them all.
2) Langlois not only saved films from oblivion but showed them at special events and festivals and so exposed an entire generation of filmmakers and cineastes (the New Wave cineaste/filmmakers were his most famous students) to the great directors and actors and producers of film history including his own favorites: Louis Feuillade (who had been dismissed as a hack but who was later appreciated as a proto-surrealist), Howard Hawks (who had yet to be appreciated for the great talent that he was by American audiences), and Louise Brooks (who was re-discovered by Langlois and brough to France for a retrospective of her career). Other archives exsited in the world but few showed films as regularly as Langlois did. He was not an educator in the conventional sense nor were his programming methods in any way conventional (he was famous for his eccentric pairings) but he believed that by showing films budding directors and cineastes would learn by osmosis (and by comparing the films that he showed together).
3) By collecting and treating films with the reverence that he did he legitimized film as a major art form. Even though a number of his critics argue that his unconventional and improper storage practices resulted in the loss of at least one important film ( Josef von Sternberg's "The Honeymoon" ) his unconventional personality and practices certainly did more good than harm. No other person had the respect of so many directors, producers, and actors and so no other person could have accumulated so many films (many of which were given to him or "loaned" to him indefinitely) with so little funding.
4) He supported film history and preservation long before the government did. And once the government did get involved and tried to wrestle the archive and the rights to show films away from him he battled the state and won. This made him a cultural hero in France and in the US.
I suspect a better more engaging biography of Langlois will be written one day and perhaps one that will include more information and examples of his famous film festival programs. Until then this fact-filled account is an adequate if not altogether inspired portrait.
on February 20, 2009
This is a really wonderful book by the great film critic Richard Roud, providing the reader with many hours of pleasure, reminiscing about the golden epoch of the Cinemateque Francaise, that bastion of film lore, created and supported throughout his eventful life by sacred monster Henri Langlois. It tends to be a little tedious by providing minute information on the creation of the different Film Archives around the world, but I guess this is part of the whole thing.