May 68: Godard bursts into Cannes and forces the festival to stop
On May 10, 1968, while Paris bristled with barricades, the stars flocked to 21e Cannes film festival. But the wind of protest is on and a small group of filmmakers, led by Jean-Luc Godard, will soon tumble onto the Croisette and force its stop.
“The student and worker demonstrations in France had, for several days, created unease among the filmmakers and critics of the festival who, they said, offered foreigners a false image of France by its social receptions and its carelessness”wrote AFP on May 18, 1968. “transform the system” which had resulted in a hexagonal cinema “cut off from all social and political reality”then summarize the Cinema notebooksto which Godard collaborated for a time.
In February, a defense committee for the Cinémathèque française was created to support its founder, Henri Langlois, sacked by the Minister of Culture, André Malraux. It is already heated by these mobilizations that Jean-Luc Godard and his protesting friends will carry out their action in Cannes. On May 17, the strike of film workers is decided and the sending to the Croisette of a motion calling on all the professionals concerned to “to oppose the continuation” of the Festival. Dispatched to Cannes, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and Claude Lelouch – whose two films are in competition – will “create shock” which will allow this sudden stop, writes AFP at the time.
“We must demolish the structures of Cannes”, launches Godard during a public meeting on May 18. Faced with the recalcitrant, he exclaims: “I am talking to you about solidarity with students and workers and you are talking to me about traveling shots and close-ups! You are jerks! » Truffaut goes further, Lelouch proposes that the films programmed be “transported to Paris to be screened there for free”. Circonspect, the director Roman Polanski judges him, “childish” to occupy the great hall of the Palace, as are the Odéon or the Sorbonne in Paris. A beautiful ” chaos “ reported live by AFP. We shout at each other, we push each other, Godard clings to the red curtains to prevent the session from starting.
Everything is linked. After Louis Malle, the Italian Monica Vitti, the English Terence Young and Polanski resign from the jury. Foreign filmmakers (Saura, Milos Forman, Richard Lester, etc.) withdraw their films, like all the French programmed, Alain Resnais, Dominique Delouche and Claude Lelouch. General delegate of the festival, Robert Favre Le Bret ensures that “Cannes is neither bourgeois nor proletarian”and appeals to him “remains what it is, the most important annual meeting in the world of cinema”. But on May 19, he bows and proclaims “the final closing of the festival”.