Movie-industry pageantry and the real world collided memorably at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival. That May, student protests and workers’ strikes had swept across France, bringing the country to a virtual standstill. Meanwhile, the festivities had commenced as usual on the Croisette, with the year’s lineup kicking off with a newly restored Gone with the Wind, a salute to old Hollywood that could not have been more at odds with the anti-capitalist fervor taking over the country. It took more than a week for things to come to a head, but the feverish climax that resulted in the festival’s cancelation was one worthy of the movies: Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and other high-profile auteurs proclaimed their solidarity with the students and workers; jury members began to step down; and Carlos Saura and Geraldine Chaplin were seen hanging from the curtain to prevent it from rising at the premiere screening of their new film Peppermint Frappé.
With the 2018 Cannes now underway, we’re commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the festival that fell apart. In an introduction to our series Cannes ’68: Cinema in Revolt, now playing on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, historian Dudley Andrew delivers a play-by-play of this seismic moment, beginning with the deposing of beloved Cinématheque française founder Henri Langlois earlier that year and the demonstrations that ensued, and continuing through to the aftermath of Cannes, which saw the emergence of a bold and widely influential leftist consciousness in the cinemas of France, Eastern Europe, and beyond.
Check out Andrew’s introduction above, then head to the Channel to watch a selection of films that vied for the never-presented Palme d’Or, including Peppermint Frappé, Miloš Forman’s The Firemen’s Ball, and Alain Resnais’s Je t’aime, je t’aime. Also, stay tuned to the Current over the coming months for a series of new essays on the cinematic legacy of 1968.