Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinematheque | Chicago Reader

Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinematheque

Any documentary about the eccentric late cofounder of the Cinematheque Francaise is bound to be watchable, but Jacques Richard's lumpy 210-minute talking-headathon obfuscates as much as it clarifies. The factionalism in the French film world guarantees that Richard has to choose sides, but he fails to acknowledge this problem, picks the wrong side, favoring fans and bureaucrats over scholars (he fails even to mention Langlois' principal successor, Dominique Paini), and never owns up to his omissions. His choice of clips is unforgivably hackneyed, and such matters as Langlois' Turkish past (beautifully handled in Edgardo Cozarinsky's 1994 documentary Citizen Langlois) and his homosexuality are almost completely bypassed, making a passing allusion to his male lover at his funeral seem a non sequitur. And his poor way of illustrating the visual qualities of nitrate prints only confuses the issue. In French with subtitles.


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