Iris Barry is, for me, the hero above all heroes. Henri Langlois is another obsessively brilliant scavenger wildly close to my heart (and the biography of his life is one of the best I've read), but in the end I find myself always turning to Iris for inspiration.
Marginally little is known about Iris, despite all that she has done for film criticism, restoration, archiving, and of course, cinephiles. At the age of forty, she founded the film department of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1935. A native of the UK, she was one of the first female film critics: writing film columns for The Spectator and Vogue before she became the film editor for Britain's best-selling newspaper, the Daily Mail. She was, the BFI writes, "the most dominant, widely read critic of the 1920s." Dear old Iris was mentored by Ezra Pound, swept into a tizzy of a romance by the dashing author and painter, Wyndham Lewis, and aimed her film columns at the "thoughtful middle class" increasingly seen in picture houses. Alongside her newspaper criticisms, she also authored two notable books of film scholarship, Let's Go to the Pictures (1926) and D.W. Griffith: American Film Master (1940). A mere six years after the MoMA opened in 1929, Iris founded one of the most important film departments in the world, with an ever-growing archive collection of rare prints, a library of film-related books, a study center, and not to mention, a finely curated film program.
Is it even necessary for me to say that she has lived my dream life?