GENEVA — Jean-Luc Godard, the ingenious “enfant terrible” of the French New Wave who revolutionized popular cinema in 1960 with his first feature film Breathless and remained for years as one of the world’s most vital and provocative directors has passed away. He was 91 years old.
Swiss news agency ATS quoted Godard’s partner Anne-Marie Mieville and her producers as saying he died peacefully and surrounded by his loved ones at his home in the Swiss town of Rolle on Lake Geneva on Tuesday. .
French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Godard as “the most iconoclastic of New Wave directors” who “invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art”.
He added: “We have lost a national treasure, the eye of a genius.”
Godard defied convention during a long career that began in the 1950s as a film critic. He rewrote the rules of camera, sound and narration.
His films propelled Jean-Paul Belmondo to stardom and his controversial modern crèche I salute you marie made headlines when Pope John Paul II denounced it in 1985.
But Godard also made a series of films, often politically charged and experimental, which pleased only a small circle of fans and frustrated many critics with their supposedly over-the-top intellectualism.
Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he was “sad, sad. Extremely sad” at news of Godard’s death.
Born into a wealthy Franco-Swiss family on December 3, 1930 in Paris, Godard grew up in Nyon, Switzerland, studied ethnology at the Sorbonne in the French capital, where he was increasingly drawn to the cultural scene which flourished in the Latin Quarter. “cine-club” after the Second World War.
He became friends with the future great directors François Truffaut, Jacques Rivette and Eric Rohmer and in 1950 founded the short-lived Gazette du Cinéma. In 1952, he started writing for the prestigious film magazine Cinema Notebooks.
After working on two films by Rivette and Rohmer in 1951, Godard attempted to direct his first film while traveling through North and South America with his father, but never finished it.
Back in Europe, he took a job in Switzerland as a construction worker on a dam project. He used the salary to fund his first full-length film, the 1954 Concrete Operationa 20-minute documentary on the construction of the dam.
Back in Paris, Godard worked as a spokesperson for an artists’ agency and made his first feature film in 1957 — All the boys are called Patrickreleased in 1959 – and continued to perfect his songwriting.
He also started working on Breathless, from a story by Truffaut. It will be Godard’s first major success when it was released in March 1960.
The film stars Belmondo as a penniless young thief inspired by Hollywood movie gangsters who, after shooting a policeman, goes on the run to Italy with his American girlfriend, played by Jean Seeberg.
Like at Truffaut The 400 blows, released in 1959, Godard’s film set a new tone for French cinematographic aesthetics. Godard rejected the conventional narrative style and instead used frequent skipped cuts that mixed philosophical discussions with action scenes.
He spiced it up with references to Hollywood gangster movies and nods to literature and the visual arts.
Godard also initiated what was to be a career-long participation in collective film projects, contributing scenes to The seven deadly sins alongside directors such as Claude Chabrol and Roger Vadim. He also worked with Ugo Gregoretti, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Roberto Rossellini on the Italian film Let’s brainwashwith scenes from Godard depicting a disturbing post-apocalypse world.
Godard, who was later to gain a reputation for his uncompromising left-wing political views, had contact with the French authorities in 1960 when he made The little soldier. The film, replete with references to France’s colonial war in Algeria, was not released until 1963, a year after the conflict ended.
His work became more outspokenly political in the late 1960s. Weekend, his characters expose the hypocrisy of bourgeois society even as they demonstrate the comic futility of violent class warfare. It came out a year before popular anger against the establishment rocked France, culminating in the iconic but short-lived student unrest of May 1968.
Godard harbored a lifelong sympathy for various forms of socialism portrayed in films spanning from the early 1970s to the early 1990s. In December 2007, he was honored by the European Film Academy with an award for ensemble of her career.
Godard has taken potshots in Hollywood over the years.
He stayed at his home in Switzerland rather than travel to Hollywood to receive an honorary Oscar in a private ceremony in November 2010 alongside film historian and curator Kevin Brownlow, director-producer Francis Ford Coppola and actor Eli Wallach.
His lifelong advocacy of the Palestinian cause also earned him repeated accusations of anti-Semitism, despite his insistence that he sympathized with the Jewish people and their plight in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Although the academy received complaints about Godard’s selection to receive the award, academy president Tom Sherak said the director was recognized “only for his contributions to filmmaking in an era of new vague”.
In 2010, Godard released socialism moviea film in three chapters presented for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival.
Godard married Danish-born model and actress Anna Karina in 1961. She appeared in a series of films he made during the rest of the 1960s, all considered landmarks of the new wave. Among them we note my life to live, Alphaville and Crazy Pete, – which also starred Belmondo and would have been shot without a script. They divorced in 1965.
Godard married his second wife, Anne Wiazemsky, in 1967. He then began a relationship with Swiss filmmaker Anne-Marie Miéville. Godard divorced Wiazemsky in 1979, after moving with Miéville to the Swiss commune of Rolle, where he lived with her for the rest of his life.