Jean-Luc Godard, influential film director, has died at the age of 91. According to Libération, the filmmaker passed away from assisted suicide, a legal practice in Switzerland, with a family member stating that he was not sick, but “he was simply exhausted. It was his decision and it was important for him that it be known.”
Godard began his career as a film critic in the world of movies. When André Bazin, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and Joseph Marie Lo-Duca founded the Cahiers du Cinéma in 1951, Godard joined the editorial team as a critic alongside François Truffaut, Jacques Rivette, and Claude Chabrol. These critics would also turn into filmmakers during the late 1950s and form the “French New Wave,” where the filmmakers would reject any notion of traditional filmmaking and adopt a more freeing, experimental style.
Godard’s 1960 film, Breathless, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, is the movie that most critics associate with the French New Wave Style, with constant jump-cuts that would break the traditional 180-degree rule of filmmaking. Characters would also break the fourth wall and directly address the audience or integrate “mise en abyme” techniques of a movie within a movie. In Godard’s Contempt (Le Mépris), the film’s opening credits are narrated through voice-over instead of physically shown, while the audience sees cameraman Raoul Coutard filming a tracking shot that they will eventually see in the movie.
Among Godard’s other known works are The Carabineers, Alphaville, Pierrot Le Fou, La Chinoise, Week-end, Histoire(s) du cinéma, Two or Three Things I Know About Her, and Goodbye to Language 3D.
Tributes poured over social media, with France President Emmanuel Macron expressing that Godard was “the most iconoclastic of New Wave filmmakers, had invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art.”
The Cahiers du Cinéma wrote an obituary on Godard, citing that “he helped us think about and see cinema in its history and history through cinema, and we must cherish this legacy as an infinitely precious treasure, with which we never cease to dialogue.” You can read the full article here.
Director Edgar Wright said that Godard was “one of the most influential, iconoclastic film-makers of them all. It was ironic that he himself revered the Hollywood studio film-making system, as perhaps no other director inspired as many people to just pick up a camera and start shooting…”
Cameron Bailey, CEO of TIFF, said that Godard’s “staggering body of work over seven decades showed him to be a rare, true genius in cinema. It was playful and punishing. It challenged every viewer, and rewarded the persistent.”
Critic Eric Kohn said that “He challenged the world with images and chronicled its decline. He WAS the movies, and they will live forever.”
Filmmaker Scott Derrickson said that Godard forever “changed the form of cinema like Bob Dylan changed the form of music.”