Cinémathèque française

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The Cinémathèque française is a French film institute based in Paris , which is dedicated to the preservation and distribution of films as a cultural asset. The institute is mainly supported by government subsidies.


The Cinémathèque française was founded in 1935 (initially under the name Cercle du cinéma ) by Henri Langlois and Georges Franju , who had previously privately looked after the rescue and preservation of film copies.

But it wasn't until a year later, with the financial and moral support of Paul-Auguste Harlé , that work could begin. Under the direction of Langlois, the Cinémathèque began collecting everything related to film and cinema - cameras , projectors, posters, books and even props .

During the German occupation of France in World War II , Langlois and his colleagues saved many films from being attacked by the National Socialists .

Langlois ran the Cinémathèque in a more “hands-free” style, didn't let anyone look at his cards and jealously watched over his treasures. Although he collected tons of film material, he gave little thought to the proper storage of these treasures. Some films have also been destroyed by improper storage. In one case, a film warehouse burned down completely. For a long time there were no archive lists, Langlois had everything in his head. The internal structures at the Cinémathèque were difficult for outsiders to see through and very informal. For decades Langlois had the "three graces" Lotte Eisner , Marie Epstein (the sister of the director Jean Epstein ) and the inscrutable Mary Meerson (Langlois' wife) as loyal helpers.

The “memory of the cinema”, as the Cinémathèque is also called, had an enormous influence on the directors of the Nouvelle Vague (including François Truffaut , Jean-Luc Godard , Claude Chabrol and Alain Resnais ) through its extensive collection of old films . Some of them were therefore called les enfants de la cinémathèque ('children of the cinémathèque ').

In 1968 there was a scandal over the Cinémathèque when the then culture minister and filmmaker André Malraux tried to force Langlois to be dismissed by cutting state subsidies . The Cinémathèque was then closed. After massive demonstrations and protests, beginning on February 12, 1968, to a certain extent on the eve of the May riots on the initiative of Claude Berri and Michel Simon with the participation of almost all the greats of French cinema (above all François Truffaut , Jean-Pierre Léaud , Claude Jade , Jean-Luc Godard , Alain Resnais ), Malraux had to reverse his step. This so-called Langlois affair was immortalized in several films, for example in the opening credits of Truffaut's Robbery Kisses (1968) and in Bertolucci's Die Träumer (2003).

The work of the Cinémathèque for the preservation of film culture has been admired in many countries and there are now similar institutions around the world that endeavor to preserve and reconstruct old films.

In September 2005 the Cinémathèque moved into its new premises in the converted former “ American Center ” designed by the architect Frank O. Gehry (rue de Bercy 51, 12th arrondissement , Paris).

The Cinémathèque française restores over 200 films a year and shows 1,300 films in its own projection rooms.



  • Lotte Eisner : I once had a beautiful fatherland . Munich: dtv, 1988
    The film historian vividly describes in her memoirs her decades of collaboration with Langlois and his colleagues.
  • Laurent Mannoni: Histoire de la Cinémathèque française: L'amour fou du cinéma , Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 2006, ISBN 2070774449
  • Richard Roud: A passion for films: Henri Langlois and the Cinémathèque Française , New York: Viking Press, 1983, ISBN 0-67-036687-0 .


  • Die Träumer (original title The Dreamers ) Great Britain, Italy, France, 2002, 110 min., Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
    Three young film fans get to know each other at the Cinémathèque française in February 1968 and reenact scenes from classic films they saw there.

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Coordinates: 48 ° 50 ′ 13 "  N , 2 ° 22 ′ 57"  E