Serious friction between Langlois and the government began with the opening of a big new auditorium for the Cinémathèque, made possible by Malraux, at the Palais de Chaillot, on the Right Bank, in 1963.
Telegrams continued to pour in: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Pauline Kael, Norman Mailer, Andrew Sarris, Susan Sontag, Iannis Xenakis. There were more demonstrations, more police violence, more telegrams and petitions.His reputation for obsessiveness was his principal business asset; for many years, people entrusted their films to him because they believed that he would protect them, if called upon, to the death. When Charles de Gaulle took office as President of France, in 1959, he created a new Ministry of Culture and appointed his old comrade André Malraux (who had been a minister in de Gaulle’s brief first government, in 1945-46) to head it.Malraux was a culture hero, too, though of a very different stripe.One of the men who engineered his dismissal, Pierre Moinot, called him “a ragpicker of genius.” Langlois was also, as it turned out, a fox, and his confrontation with French officialdom is one of the great stories of a year whose meaning, like the meaning of 1789 and the meaning of 1848 and, someday, probably, the meaning of 2001, is a forever deepening mystery, even for—especially for—the people who lived through it. Film stock is famously perishable, and for many years movies were considered, even by the companies that made them, disposable commodities.Langlois saved movies from death and disintegration, not just the rags of cinema but the riches as well.(The actress who plays her in Bertolucci’s movie, Eva Green, is not boyish.) Nor is there, strictly speaking, incest in the movie.The relation between Isabelle and Théo is completely uninhibited: they sleep in the same bed and perform sex acts in one another’s presence.Sartre and Beauvoir were habitués; so were Léger, Braque, Gide, and Georges Pompidou.And so were the cinephiles of the postwar generation—Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, Rivette, Chabrol. Langlois was a scavenger, and he had a scavenger’s regard for ethical and personal decorum.The Langlois Affair is the setting for Bernardo Bertolucci’s new movie, “The Dreamers,” which Bertolucci adapted from a novel, “The Holy Innocents” (1988), by the British writer Gilbert Adair.The movie is intense and languid, gritty and dreamy, sexy and silly, sentimental and pretentious, didactic and inconclusive—that is, pure Bertolucci.