Death of French director Jean-Luc Godard
Godard was one of the world’s most acclaimed directors, known for classics such as ‘Breathless’ and ‘Contempt’, which broke with convention and helped pioneer a new way of making movies, with camera work freehand, jump cuts and an existential dialogue.
“Jean-Luc Godard died peacefully at home surrounded by his loved ones,” said his wife Anne-Marie Mieville and the producers in a press release published by several French media. Godard will be cremated and there will be no official ceremony, they said.
French daily Releasewho first reported the news, said Godard chose to end his life through assisted suicide, a practice permitted under Swiss law, quoting a person close to the family as saying “it was his decision and he was important to him that people be aware of this.”
Contacted by Reuters, the family said they would not comment further.
For many cinephiles, no praise is high enough: Godard, with his tousled black hair and thick-rimmed glasses, was a true revolutionary who made artists out of filmmakers, putting them on a par with the masters. painters and literary icons.
“A movie should have a beginning, middle and end, but not necessarily in that order,” he once said.
Godard was not alone in creating the French New Wave, a credit he shares with at least a dozen peers, including François Truffaut and Eric Rohmer, mostly hip, bohemian Left Bank pals from Paris to the late 1950s.
However, he became the child star of the movement, which spawned offshoots in Japan, Hollywood and, more unlikely, in what was then communist-ruled Czechoslovakia as well as Brazil.
“Jean-Luc Godard, the most iconoclastic filmmaker of the New Wave, had invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art. We are losing a national treasure, a look of genius”, tweeted President Emmanuel Macron.
Brigitte Bardot, who appeared in several Godard films, also paid tribute on Twitter.
“Godard created Contempt and then, out of breath, he joined the firmament of the last great star-makers,” Bardot wrote, in a play to the titles of two of the filmmaker’s 1960s classics “Contempt,” in which she played, and “Breathless”.
Quentin Tarantino, director of the cult films “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs” of the 1990s, is part of a more recent generation of filmmakers who have taken up the torch of the tradition of going beyond borders initiated by Godard and his acolytes of the Left Bank of Paris.
Earlier came Martin Scorsese in 1976 with “Taxi Driver,” the unsettling, neon-lit psychological thriller about a Vietnam veteran turned taxi driver who roams the streets through the night with a growing obsession with the need to clean up the seedy city. from New York.
“RIP Jean-Luc Godard, one of the most influential iconoclastic filmmakers of all,” said director Edgar Wright. “It was ironic that he worshiped the Hollywood studio filming system himself, because perhaps no other director has inspired so many people to pick up a camera and start shooting…”
Godard was not universally revered, however; some of his harshest critics included the late Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, himself a pioneer of European cinema who is perhaps best known for his 1957 films “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries”.
“I never took anything away from (Godard’s) films. They felt constructed, fake intellectual, and completely dead. Cinematically uninteresting and endlessly boring,” Bergman said in an interview, according to his foundation’s website.
NEW WAVE, NEW WAYS
Godard was born into a wealthy Franco-Swiss family on December 3, 1930 in the sumptuous seventh arrondissement of Paris. His father was a doctor, his mother the daughter of a Swiss founder of Banque Paribas, then an illustrious investment bank.
This upbringing contrasted with his later pioneering ways. Godard came across like-minded people whose dissatisfaction with mundane films that never deviated from convention sowed the seeds of a dissident movement that came to be called the New Wave.
With its more outspoken and offbeat approach to sex, violence, and its explorations of counterculture, anti-war politics, and other changing mores, the New Wave was about innovation in filmmaking.
Godard was one of his most prolific peers, producing dozens of short and feature films over more than half a century from the late 1950s.
“Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it shape,” Godard said.
CIGARS AND COFFEE
Godard spent the last years of his life in Rolle, a Swiss village on the shores of Lake Geneva – an area favored by celebrities eager to avoid the spotlight.
“We met him here, he had a very particular silhouette, he always smoked his emblematic cigar and he used to drink his coffee in a restaurant on the main street”, declared the mayor of Rolle, Monique Pugnale.
“We saw him almost every week, he came to buy a cookie,” said Nadine von Wattenwyl, who runs a grocery store. “We already knew what he wanted, so we were ready.”
Many of Godard’s most influential and commercially successful films were released in the 1960s, including “Vivre Sa Vie” (My Life to Live), “Pierrot le Fou”, “Two or Three Things I know about it” and “Weekend”.
He moved on to making films steeped in leftist anti-war politics in the 1970s before returning to a more commercial mainstream. Recent works, however – among them 2014’s Au Revoir au Langage and 2018’s Le livre d’images – were more experimental and largely reduced audiences to Godard geeks.