In these days of DVDs, NetFlix, and downloadable videos, it?s difficult to realize that there was a time not all that long ago when access to important movies--early film in particular--was either startlingly limited or impossible altogether. If one could assign cultural sainthood to a single individual for first championing the need to Comprehensively collect, preserve, and screen these treasures, the halo would most certainly be handed to a perpetually rumpled, movie-mad Parisian named Henri Langlois (1914-1977). As reverentially recounted by docu-maker Jacques Richard in his film The Phantom of the Cinémathèque, Langois? story is filled with as much drama as many of the films he collected.
In 1936, young Langlois, and fellow cineastes Georges Franju and Jean Mitry, in partial reaction to the continuing indifference of the French government to French film heritage, founded a combination screening room and film library known as the Cinémathèque Française. Langlois was perhaps the first to assess the importance--the urgency--of preserving early films. He was also among the first to develop the concept of programming film based on theme, genre, era.
During the German occupation of France, Langlois squirreled away precious contraband films in his collection in various secret venues throughout Europe. There's an often-told and almost mythical story about actress Simone Signoret aiding Langlois by carting forbidden films around Paris in a baby carriage under the nose of the Nazis. Throughout the Occupation, Langlois held clandestine screenings of classic movies in his mother's small apartment, complete with wine (but of course!) and snacks purchased with rations. Without his cinematic amour fou and archivist's diligence, films such as The Cabinet of Caligari, and Blue Angel would very likely not be around to view today.
After the war, M. Langlois and the Cinématheque supported and inspired an entire new wave of brilliant young French filmmakers and film scholars. Bernardo Bertolucci referred to the Cinématheque as "the best school of cinema in the world. Perhaps the most effective and moving aspects of Richard's documentary is his evocation of a time and place (Paris in the 50s and 60s) in which film and film viewing became a passionate way of life, a religion (Jean Renoir described the Cinématheque as "the church for movies"). Langlois's increasingly nasty run-ins with the petite bureaucrats of the Gaullist government and his short-term removal as head of the CF in 1968 resulted in mass protests and near-riots that both demonstrated Langlois? artistic stature and presaged the larger cultural upheavals in May of that year. Again, One can only marvel at an era and place in which the movies and movie preservation inspired cultural luminaries such as Sartre to take to the streets.
Jean-Luc Godard puts his finger precisely on Langlois? contribution: even though he never shot a frame, he was great filmmaker, for he ?produced a new way of seeing movies.?
Langlois Resources in the UCB Library
Phantom of the Cinematheque
Media Resources Center DVD 5986
--MAIN: PN1998.3.L38 L3613 1994
--MOFF: PN1998.3.L38 L3613 1994
--MAIN: MAIN: PN1998.3.L38 R68 1999
Because of the difficulties related to renewing rights for the film footage used in the documentary, the series went out of distribution for a number of years in the early 2000s. The series became the center of a controversy in 2005, when the organization Downhill Battle initiated the "Eyes on the Screen" project, along with civil rights activist Lawrence Guyot to encourage the use of file sharing networks such as BitTorrent to distribute the film - without regard for copyright restrictions. They also called for people to display the film, particularly on February 8 - during Black History Month.See Wired News article on this controversy
Fortunately, the series has recently been re-released on DVD (with the support of several major private funding sources). The Media Center has acquired the six-disc set: DVD6960-6966
For more information on the series see
Encyclopedia of Television article
For a listing of episodes in the series, see PBS web site
The first place most people (me included) tend to gravitate when they're looking for production and acting credits and other information about movies is the Internet Movie Database (http://us.imdb.com/). No wonder: the imdb bills itself as "The Earth's Biggest Movie Database", and perhaps rightfull so--as of today the database contains over 6.3 million individual film/TV credits. The thing about the imdb that should give serious film scholars pause, however, is the fact that the information contained in the database is largely supplied "by people in the industry and visitors like you." Like a lot of other free internet information, one always has to swallow imdb search results with a few grains of salt.
What's a more authoritative source?, you ask. UC Berkeley faculty, students, and staff are fortunate to have access to a number of important movie databases produced by scholarly institutions such as the American Film Institute and the British Film Institute. These resources are available to users coming in via berkeley.edu accounts, or Berkeley users who have set up a proxy server account (see http://lib.berkeley.edu/Help/connecting_off_campus.html for instructions on setting up such an account).
The AFI Catalog provides comprehensive filmographic information on over 45,000 films, including more than 17,500 made in the early years of film from 1893 to 1910. The database includes approximately one million personal name entries - including more than 500,000 actor entries and 27,000 director entries. In addition to extensive credits and plot synopses, the AFI catalog provides citations to primary source trade and popular reviews and articles regarding particular films.
Film Index International is the definitive online resource focusing on entertainment films and personalities. Produced in collaboration with the British Film Institute (bfi) it is based on the Summary of Film and Television (SIFT) database collated by the bfi over the past 70 years. Film Index International provides in-depth indexing of over 100,000 films - from the first silent movies to the latest blockbusters - and biographical information for over 40,000 personalities. Its rich content also includes coverage of international film awards and prizes as well as searchable plot summaries and full cast and crew lists. Like the AFI Catalog, the AFI provides citations to selected film and trade literature regarding individual films.
On the phone, via email, in-person...MRC receives dozens and dozens of questions a week about access to and use of the collection. Below are the questions we get asked the most:
Q: Can you make a copy of a video or DVD in the MRC collection for me?
A: Most of the materials in MRC are under current copyright (even titles that are no longer in commercial distribution). Making duplicate copies of a copyrighted work is one of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder...in other words, we can't duplicate works in the collection without securing permission to do so. The one possible exception is making copies of works which are no longer commercially available, but which are physically at risk. In such cases, we may be allowed under current copyright law to make a single copy for in-house screening.
Q: We are a documentary production company that is trying to find historical footage of...whatever. Can you supply us with this?
A: See answer above. Since we don't own the rights to the majority of titles in the MRC collection, we can't provide stock footage or other excerpts for commercial use. We may be able to assist you in identifying the rights holders for desired footage.
NOTE: MRC may be able to assist UCB faculty in obtaining a limited number of brief clips from titles in the MRC collection for teaching and research purposes.
Q: I am a non-UC person wishing to obtain regular access to the MRC collection. How do I go about doing this?
A: The primary mission of the MRC is to support teaching, learning, and research on the Berkeley campus. MRC collections and services are available to all current UCB students, faculty, and staff. Students from other UC campuses may also screen MRC materials on site in the Center. Although we do occasionally grant one-time permission to non-UC users to use the Center and its collections, regular access is not available for non-UC users (including UC alumni). For more information, see MRC's policy page
Q: I am a faculty member at another UC campus. May I borrow materials in the MRC collection via interlibrary loan?
A: MRC makes its collections selectively available via interlibrary loan. The decision to loan is based upon a number of factors, including the intensity of use of the requested material, its physical condition, and the ability to replace the material if damaged or lost.
Q: I am a high school teacher. Can I borrow MRC materials for use in my classroom.
A: The Center does not loan materials outside of the UC system. We may, however, be able to provide information about the distribution sources for the desired materials.
Q: We are a student group on campus wishing to show an MRC title as part of a campus program we are putting on.
A: The Center allows the use of its materials in regularly scheduled classes on the Berkeley campus only. We do not loan materials for extracurricular use, even if the proposed use is on campus.
Q: I am a Berkeley faculty person wishing to place on reserve in MRC a copy of a program I copied off the TV (or downloaded from the internet). Is this allowable?
A: It is the MRC's policy NOT to accept illegally copied materials for reserve. Although programs may be legally copied off-air from the television for classroom teaching, the specific uses and retention of these materials is limited by current copyright guidelines.