Ingenious French New Wave “enfant terrible” Jean-Luc Godard, who for years was regarded as one of the most vibrant and challenging filmmakers in the world, has passed away. His groundbreaking 1960 film “Breathless” changed mainstream filmmaking. He was 91.
Godard passed away quietly and surrounded by his loved ones on Tuesday at his home in the Swiss town of Rolle, on Lake Geneva, according to his girlfriend, Anne-Marie Mieville, and her producers, as reported by the Swiss news agency ATS.
As “the most iconoclastic of the New Wave filmmakers,” Godard was praised by French President Emmanuel Macron for “creating a genuinely contemporary, passionately free creative form.”
“We have lost a national treasure, the sight of a genius,” he said.
Over the course of a lengthy career that started in the 1950s as a cinema critic, Godard bucked convention. He revised the laws governing narration, sound, and camera.
Jean-Paul Belmondo rose to fame thanks to his films, and his contentious 1985 nativity play “Hail Mary” made news when Pope John Paul II condemned it.
However, Godard also produced a number of films that, although sometimes entertaining to a limited group of followers, often disappointed reviewers due to their alleged exaggerated intellectualism. These films were frequently experimental and politically charged.
The director of the Cannes Film Festival, Thierry Fremaux, expressed his death at the passing of Godard by telling The Associated Press that he was “sad, sorry. Immensely so” on Tuesday.
Godard, who was born on December 3, 1930, into a prosperous French-Swiss family, was raised in Nyon, Switzerland. He later moved to Paris to study ethnology at the Sorbonne, where he grew increasingly interested in the artistic community that grew up in the Latin Quarter “cine-club” after World War II.
He became acquaintances with Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, and Francois Truffaut, three future well-known filmmakers, and in 1950 he started the short-lived Gazette du Cinema. He started contributing to the respected film journal Cahiers du Cinema in 1952.
Godard attempted to make his first movie while travelling across North and South America with his father in 1951 after working on two Rivette and Rohmer films, but he never completed it.
He found employment as a construction worker on a dam project in Switzerland after returning to Europe. He utilised the money to produce 1954’s “Operation Concrete,” a 20-minute documentary on the construction of the dam, which was his first finished movie.
Godard created his first feature film, “All Boys Are Called Patrick,” which was released in 1959, after returning to Paris, where he worked as the spokesperson for an artists’ agency and continued to refine his writing.
Additionally, he started work on the Truffaut-based film “Breathless.” When it was released in March 1960, it would become Godard’s first significant achievement.
In the film, Belmondo plays a young, destitute robber who takes inspiration from Hollywood gangster movies and flees to Italy with his American sweetheart, portrayed by Jean Seeberg, after shooting a police officer.
Godard’s picture, which was released in 1959, similarly established the new aesthetic standard for French cinema as did Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. Godard eschewed traditional narrative techniques in favour of many jump-cuts that mixed action sequences with philosophical debates.
He added flavour to it all by making allusions to literature and visual art as well as Hollywood gangster films.
Along with filmmakers like Claude Chabrol and Roger Vadim, Godard also began a career-long involvement in collaborative cinema projects by contributing portions to “The Seven Deadly Sins.” In addition, Godard collaborated with Pier Paolo Pasolini, Roberto Rossellini, and Ugo Gregoretti on the Italian film “Let’s Have a Brainwash,” where his sequences depict an unsettling post-apocalyptic environment.
Godard had a run-in with French authorities when he made “The Little Soldier” in 1960; the film, which contains numerous allusions to France’s colonial war in Algeria, was not released until 1963, a year after the conflict came to an end. Godard would later become known for his uncompromising left-wing political views.
In the late 1960s, the political content of his work became increasingly overt. His characters in “Weekend” mock the hypocrisy of bourgeois life while also illustrating the absurd futility of a violent class struggle.
It was released a year before France was rocked by widespread discontent with the status quo, which culminated in the famous but fleeting student unrests of May 1968.
Godard has a lifelong affinity for the many socialisms shown in movies from the early 1970s through the early 1990s. He received a lifetime achievement award from the European Film Academy in December 2007.
Over the years, Godard criticised Hollywood in many ways.
In November 2010, he was presented with an honorary Oscar at a ceremony in Switzerland rather than in Hollywood with actors Eli Wallach, Francis Ford Coppola, Kevin Brownlow, a film historian and preservationist, and others.
Despite his repeated denials that he had antisemitic tendencies, his lifetime support for the Palestinian cause also led to charges of antisemitism.
This was in spite of his claims that he had empathy for the situation of Jews living in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Although Godard’s selection for the prize drew considerable criticism, according to academy President Tom Sherak, the filmmaker was honoured “only for his contributions to cinema in the New Wave period.”
The three-part movie “Film Socialisme,” directed by Godard, was initially shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.
In 1961, Godard wed Anna Karina, a model and actress of Danish descent. She participated in a number of his films during the rest of the 1960s, all of which are regarded as important New Wave works.
Among them, “Crazy Pete,” which also featured Belmondo and was reported to have been filmed without a screenplay, “My Life to Live,” “Alphaville,” and “Crazy” stood out. They split up in 1965.
In 1967, Godard wed Anne Wiazemsky, his second wife. Later on, he began dating Swiss director Anne-Marie Miéville.
After moving in with Miéville in the Swiss town of Rolle, where they spent the remainder of their lives together, Godard divorced Wiazemsky in 1979.
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