Lest we forget, 40 years ago this month it was “Mai 68”, that is, it was May 1968.
For most Americans (like me) the protests and riots that raged in France in 1968 are largely unknown. Like many protests of the 1960s there are questions as to their ultimate effectiveness. Certainly de Gaul was eventually pushed out, signaling a change from conservatism to liberalism. And, of course, Langlois was restored to his position, which was a part of the whole Mai 68 thing, though protests on his behalf started even earlier than May. But who really knows if any particular protest changed anything that would not have inevitably been changed anyway. And yet, those were glorious days, so I have read.
Here is a nice overview of some key elements of Mai 68:
My français is a bit rusty, but this is a nice retrospective timeline from French television:
There is a part of my soul that loves those protests in France, much like I love the protests in the U.S. in the 60s, or the anti-war protests and anti-globalization protests in recent years. Protesting is so romantic. Many cinephiles may not know that filmmakers shut down the Cannes festival (mentioned in the overview piece above) in 1968 as well.
This is a wonderful verité piece showing the debates among the filmmakers at Cannes deciding what their protest was going to mean and what actions that would require:
The fact that Cannes was closed down in 1968 shows that, as a film festival, it had clout, that it was important, and that films were important. I would love to see the Oscars shut down in protest to any number of things, such as the war in Iraq. But that would mean the Oscars are important and are we ready to admit that?
Special bonus: Captain Beefheart live in 1968 on the beach in Cannes.
*Filmmakers in the photo, left to right: LELOUCH, GODARD, TRUFFAUT, MALLE, POLANSKI