Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinematheque

(Le Fantôme d’Henri Langlois, Jacques Richard, France, 2004)


This massive (three-and-a-half hour) documentary by Jacques Richard painstakingly traces the career and obsessions of Henri Langlois (1914-1977), co-founder of the Cinémathèque Française.

Eccentric (or rather, as his fervent friends put it, "poetic") in his collecting, archiving, programming and administrative ways, Langlois was destined for a head-on collision with the State. This played itself out most spectacularly in the lead-up to the events of May 1968.

Langlois’ gay sexuality is over-discreetly elided, and any critique of his attitudes and methods is caricatured. But the impressive parade of talking heads (including actor Jean-Pierre Léaud, director Claude Chabrol and militant Daniel Cohn-Bendit) more than persuade us of the rightness and worth of the vision of this "phantom".

© Adrian Martin July 2005

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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