This is a contribution to For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon being led by Marilyn Ferdinand of Ferdy on Films and Farran Smith Nehme, aka The Siren, at The Self-Styled Siren.
Henri Langlois was the godfather of perhaps the most important movement in the history of film, The French New Wave. From 1938-1977, Langlois ran the Cinematheque Francaise, screening movies and educating an entire generation on the history of cinema that had come before them. But, more important, Langlois saved films and was one of the first film preservationists in the world.
I lived in France during 1994-95 and had many memorable days at the old Cinematheque located at Palais de Chaillot. I hate that I'll probably never see a movie there again. The place was absolutely magical. I swear I'd be watching IVAN THE TERRIBLE and could almost feel the ghosts of Langlois, Godard, Truffaut, and Chabrol alongside of me. In fact, these moments were so formative that I decided to pay homage by naming my film production company after them, Chaillot Films.
Film preservation is an issue that some of the other arts (literature, music) don't really face as much. For instance, there's footage still lost from Orson Welles' 1942 film, The Magnificent Ambersons, probably the most famous follow-up film in the history of cinema. It was Welles' second film after Citizen Kane. Yet, we may never have the opportunity to see it the way that Welles intended. Think of it this way, this would be the same as several famous Beatles' songs disappearing or half of one of Hemingway's novels being lost forever.
This Welles film is just one of the most famous cases. There are a countless number of film classics, considered either badly damaged or lost, that need attention. According to the National Film Preservation Foundation, "fewer than 20% of U.S. feature films from the 1920s survive in complete form in American archives; of the American features produced before 1950, only half still exist."
The cinema turns 115 this year, but much of its early history is under threat of disappearing. Film preservation is vital to keeping this artform alive. Let's all do what we can to keep our film history intact for generations to come.
Please donate any amount you can to support the efforts of the National Film Preservation Foundation.
The National Film Preservation Foundation is the independent, nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to help save America’s film heritage. They work directly with archives to rescue endangered films that will not survive without public support.
The NFPF will give away 4 DVD sets as thank-you gifts to blogathon donors chosen in a random drawing: Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film, 1900-1934 and Treasures IV: American Avant Garde Film, 1947-1986.
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