I thought we had made note of this before now, but apparently not.
2014 marks the centenary year of Henri Langlois, master film curator and key figure of mid-century European cinema. In celebration of this, the Cinémathèque Française in Paris are running a dedicated exhibition to Langlois’s life and work. Langlois’s influence can not be downplayed. Were it not for his approach to the national cinemas of countries outside France, especially in the wake of the Second World War, the chances are that the history of the medium as we know it would look very differently to how we know it. It’s arguable that without Langlois there would be no New Wave, and in turn the European cinema of the 1960s would have panned out very differently.
Langlois’s fame and reputation spread much further than the young moviegoers of Paris, with Alfred Hitchcock just one of the filmmakers swept up by Langlois’s charm and passion for the movies, and forever grateful for Langlois’s concerted efforts to reintroduce the American cinema that France missed out on during the years of the occupation. Hitchcock was amongst a number of notable filmmakers to send notes of protest to the news of Langlois’s dismissal from the Cinémathèque in 1968, while others, including the by-then world famous directors of the Nouvelle Vague quite literally took to the streets of Paris in rebellion. Langlois was eventually reappointed to the post, and was awarded an honorary Oscar a couple of years later.
The exhibition is running at the moment, and is accompanied by a full season of related films. More information can be found here. The whole thing runs through to digital platforms too, with the Cinémathèque’s website home to a wonderful and extensive digital timeline of the key events in Langlois’ tumultuous tenure. Go full-screen and click here for an afternoon-dominating charted history of one man’s effect on cinema.
I’m hoping to make the pilgrimage over to Paris before the celebration ends on August 3rd.
For more information on Henri Langlois you could do worse than Phantom Of The Cinematheque, Jacques Richard’s very entertaining documentary film on Langlois that features commentary from Hitchcock, the Cahiers five and Jack Valenti, amongst others, while Richard Roud’s A Passion For Films is a great read.