F., M.: Eila Hershon, Roberto Guerra. Int.: Henri Langlois, Jeanne Moreau, Ingrid Bergman, Simone Signoret, Lillian Gish, Catherine Deneuve, Francois Truffaut, Jean Renoir, Viva, Kenneth Anger. Prod.: Eila Hershon, Roberto Guerra . DCP. D.: 52′. Bn e Col.
This 52-minute documentary, made in 1970, offers a whimsical, anecdotal portrait, interspersing interviews with Mr. Langlois’s admiring associates with footage of him as he walks around Paris, holding forth on anything from a house in which Jean Renoir once lived to the black and white swans he spies in a park. “This beautiful black is the black of the cinema”, he says, pointing to one swan. “This” – pointing to several – “is the black and white of the cinema. And the red” – indicating the black swan’s bill – “is the heart of the cinema”. This portrait, by Eila Hershon and Roberto Guerra, makes it clear that Mr. Langlois could find cinematic overtones in virtually anything, and that he did so with passionate intensity. Simone Signoret tells of how Mr. Langlois might halt the showing of a film if he felt the audience to be unworthy of what it was seeing: ” ‘No, you’re too stupid’, he would say, and then he’d show them Potemkin in the dining room of Mr. Langlois’s mother’s tiny apartment, during the German occupation, at a time when the screening of a Soviet film would have been forbidden”. Mr. Langlois himself recollects that as a child, he found it “too strong” to watch films whose characters wore modern dress, since it was impossible for him to believe these were works of fiction. So he watched historical films instead.
He was “a man of destiny, born to do one thing”, according to Lillian Gish, who, along with Ingrid Bergman, Catherine Deneuve, Jean Renoir, Jeanne Moreau and François Truffaut is interviewed here.
Mr. Langlois points out former homes of his own and of the Cinémathèque, the present-day facilities of which are briefly seen. There is also a bit of newsreel footage of the heated protests against Mr. Langlois’s brief dismissal early in 1968, demonstrations that prefigured those that would erupt that May.
What emerges, even more distinctly than the intensity of Mr. Langlois’s love of film, is the tremendous debt of gratitude owed him by all those who play a part in this affectionate tribute.
Janet Maslin, ‘Langlois’ at public, “The New York Times”, August 5, 1983