suzanne simonin

5

…In the mid-1960s the French film-maker Jacques Rivette re-ignited these debates with the production of his film version of the novel, Suzanne Simonin, with Anna Karina playing the role of Suzanne. In de Gaulle’s France in 1966, the film was judged untimely and unwelcome, and it was promptly banned on April Fool’s Day, apparently single-handedly, by the Minister of Information, Yvon Bourges, who considered it ‘a blasphemous film which dishonours nuns’. This act of state censorship caused a huge scandal. The new wave of French cinema faced a backlash from the old guard, including the likes of the Catholic novelist François Mauriac, who complained that ‘it would never occur to those who chose to film Diderot’s poisoned book to make a film against the Jews—but against the Catholics, anything goes!’ But liberal opinion refused to be silenced. Jean-Luc Godard, the well-known film-maker and husband of Anna Karina, published in the pages of the magazine The New Observer (Le Nouvel Observateur) a now famous open letter to the then Minister of Culture, André Malraux, in which he defined censorship as the ‘gestapo of the mind’ and accused Malraux, a leading intellectual himself, of blindness and cowardice. A large number of people—intellectuals, film-makers, and even sympathetic priests—added their voices to the chorus of protest. The decision of the right-wing Gaullist government, driven as much by electoral concerns as moral ones, did not prevent the astute Malraux from allowing the film to be screened at the Cannes film festival, and in May 1967, after the legislative elections, the ban was lifted, and the film was finally shown in Paris in the following November.