In the 1960s cinema found itself in a distinguished cultural position within Western culture, with filmmakers able to consider themselves the eminent representatives of contemporary Western culture. In the 1960s, modern art cinema had blossomed into the very symbol of a new “zeitgeist” for a new generation that wanted to manifest its opposition to classical bourgeois culture. Educational and cultural reforms in 1968 were hailed by a generation whose members had been raised with the awareness of an existing cinematic tradition. The members of this generation of the 1930s and 1940s were born together with sound cinema, and they regarded silent cinema as their own cultural and artistic tradition rather than as an outdated form of mass entertainment.
Even politics became involved with cinema. The demonstrations provoked by the dismissal of Henri Langlois, director of Cinémathèque Française, became the overture (albeit not the cause) of the student riots in Paris in 1968. And François Truffaut declared, “What we have here is the stupidity of an impossible regime. And also the fact that there are too many selfdesigned candidates for the elite. But these guys, from De Gaulle to Mitterrand, including Deferre—except the modest Mendès France—do not and will never understand what cinema is all about.”1 It never occurred to anyone then or later to judge the quality of the political elite according to its relationship to cinema. It is precisely this awareness of the cultural role of the “film generation” that is reflected in Truffaut's words. The year 1968
1. Demonstrations took place in March and April 1968. François Truffaut was one of the
leaders of the protest movement. He pronounced these words at the occasion of Langlois's
reinstatement on April 22, 1968. Cited in Libération, May 4, 1998.