The Spirit of ’68 (Remembered in film)





AT least according to legend, the “events of May” — the strikes and disturbances that convulsed France in the spring of 1968 — began at the movies. On Feb. 9 Henri Langlois, president of the National Cinémathèque Française in Paris and a shambling, revered godfather of the French New Wave, was removed from his post by André Malraux, the minister of culture in Charles de Gaulle’s government. Young cinephiles reacted with outrage, and their angry protests flowed into a tide of political and social discontent that quickly reached the flood stage.

Three months later the country was engulfed in riots, work stoppages and mass demonstrations. Some of France’s most venerable traditions and institutions seemed to be under assault, and the Cannes Film Festival, the nation’s glamorous and exalted cinematic rite of spring, was hardly immune. The festival came to a halt on May 19, after a group of filmmakers, including Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, professing solidarity with insurgent students and workers, rushed the stage at the Palais des Festivals and held down the curtain, preventing the scheduled screening from taking place.

Next month some of the entries from that aborted 21st Cannes festival will be shown, belatedly, at the 61st. This is just one of many film-world commemorations of the 40th anniversary of a singularly tumultuous year.



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