Thing 000768 (Passion-Cinéma)

In 1972, Henri Langlois founded Musée du Cinema Henri Langlois at the Palais de Chaillot. The museum was part of the Cinémathèque Française, which was initiated in 1936. The museum’s collection started from the private collection of Henri Langlois, which he donated to Cinémathèque Française. Besides films, Langlois also helped to preserve other items linked to cinema such as cameras, projection machines, costumes and vintage theater programs. The collection at the Palais de Chaillot was installed over 3,000 square meters in 19 different rooms and in 36 parts.

In 1997, Cinémathèque Française planned to move from the Palais de Chaillot to Palais de Tokyo. The move implied that the permanent exhibition Musée du Cinema Henri Langlois would have to be altered.

Langlois’ heirs opposed the collection being altered in the move to the Palais de Tokyo, on the basis of Langlois’ droit d’auteur of Musée du Cinema Henri Langlois. On March 5, 1997 the court case Langlois c. Cinémathèque Française took place at Tribunal de grande instance in Paris.

“[...] The permanent exhibition of objects arranged in specific spaces but not exclusively and according to a scenography guided by a personal vision of the history of film is not suffcient to lift the museum to the status of a work of art [...]”

The court concluded that Musée du Cinema Henri Langlois didn’t deserve to be considered a protected work under the protection of droit d’auteur. Langlois’ heirs subsequently appealed the decision. On October 2, 1997, the court case Langlois c. Cinémathèque Française took place at Cour d’Appel in Paris. Judge Gomez held that:

Considering that it is not contested that the exhibition named Musée du Cinema Henri Langlois has as its only author the person Henri Langlois, he had the idea and he has entirely assured its conception, it is witnessed indeed without any ambiguity in the report by the superior commission of historical monuments, the report indicates that the exhibition is “a unique ensemble that brings together the oeuvre of Henri Langlois” [...] and “takes place in about 30 parts that were entirely conceived by Henri Langlois”; [...] Considering that it is noted that Henri Langlois not only selected the objects and projections which compose this exhibition but also imagined a presentation in a certain order and according to an original scenography; Considering in particular that it is written in several articles and publications about Musée du Cinema Henri Langlois that Langlois has conceived the exhibition as a time travel through the history of film and cinematography; Considering that we don’t discuss here a simple methodological presentation of various elements according to the history of film but a radical personal creation, the exhibition expresses as well the imagination of Henri Langlois as his proper conceptions of film history and reflects as such his personality; [...] Considering that the original character of this creation is accentuated by the fact that on the moment of its realization, there was not a single other existing museum dedicated to film history, this museum imagined by Henri Langlois serves as a model and a reference for other museums, as described in certain articles cited; [...] Considering that the legal status of the individual objects of which the exhibition is composed is not relevant, the exhibition named Musée du Cinema Henri Langlois is an original creation by an author, the exhibition calls upon the intellectual capacity and the sensibility of its visitors, the exhibition constitutes without discussion a work of the mind;

The court reversed the previous decision and recognized droit d’auteur for the arrangement of the exhibition made in Musée du Cinema by Langlois. As a result, Cinémathèque Française was obliged to make a different permanent exhibition. Finally, the Cinémathèque Française moved to a building at Rue de Bercy in Paris. Although the new permanent exhibition, entitled Passion-Cinéma, contains the same items as Musée du Cinema Henri Langlois, its new arrangement tells the history of the three major donators of the collection: Will Day, Henri Langlois and Jean Vivé.