Second chance, 40 years later

The lost '68 films screening in Cannes this year

Forty years after the tumultuous events of 1968, six films that failed to unspool at the fest that year are included in 2008’s Cannes Classics lineup. A sneak peek:


Helmer Carlos Saura’s surreal pic about repression during the Franco regime was tipped by many as a possible Palme d’Or winner. But pandemonium broke out at the film’s official screening on May 18. The public was treated to the bizarre sight of New Wave directors Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut trying to halt the film’s projection by hanging onto the curtain as it pulled back from the screen. Similar chaos ensued at a rescheduled afternoon screening. Both unspoolings had to be abandoned. The next day general delegate Robert Favre le Bret called off the festival.


Aleksandr Zarkhi’s “Karenina” was scheduled to be screened after “Peppermint Frappe.” With Maoists such as Godard leading calls to halt the fest, there was the ironic possibility that the Soviets might act as strikebreakers. But Zarkhi made no protest when his film was withdrawn. His countryman, Vsevolod Rozhdestvensky, a member of the Cannes jury, was not nearly as amenable. Outraged that the was fest closing down, he refused to attend any jury meetings.


Alain Resnais was one of three French directors with a film in the main competition. He had spent five years getting this sci-fi melodrama to the screen. But when the director heard what was going on at Cannes, he immediately withdrew his film from competition. When it was eventually released in France, it did very little business. Resnais didn’t make another film for six years.


Another French helmer in competition that year was Dominique Delouche, who was initially overjoyed to see his first feature be selected. Pic’s producer was Christine Gouze-Renal, whose brother-in-law was future French president Francois Mitterrand, a staunch opponent of Charles de Gaulle’s government. After receiving a letter from Truffaut on the eve of the festival, Delouche reluctantly withdrew his film. “I was completely devastated,” he tells Variety.


Peter Collinson was one of four British helmers in the 1968 competition with the minimalist WWII drama “The Long Day’s Dying.” After low-key releases in the U.K. and U.S., “Dying” gradually built a cult following, especially among WWII aficionados. The film remains very hard to find, as it was never released on video or DVD.


Claude Lelouch, one of the most vociferous supporters of the fest’s closure, directed this docu about the ’68 Winter Olympics, an out-of-competition entry. Lelouch also produced French director Michel Cournot’s first film “Les Gauloises bleues,” which failed to screen in the main competition that year. Cournot never made another. A day after the fest ended, journalist Louis Chauvet in Le Figaro described Lelouch as “a bit embarrassed because he owed his fortune to the Cannes system; from the Croisette one can even see the luxurious yacht he’d been given by the American distributor of ‘A Man and a Woman.’ “

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