The radical director of Breathless and Alphaville, and who was a key figure in the French Nouvelle Vague, has died.
Jean-Luc Godard, the French-Swiss director who was a key figure in the Nouvelle Vague, the film-making movement that revolutionised cinema in the late 1950s and 60s, has died aged 91. French news agency AFP reported that he died “peacefully at home” in Switzerland with his wife Anne-Marie Mieville at his side.
Best known for his iconoclastic, seemingly improvised filming style, as well as unbending radicalism, Godard made his mark with a series of increasingly politicised films in the 1960s, before enjoying an unlikely career revival in recent years, with films such as Film Socialisme and Goodbye to Language as he experimented with digital technology.
The French president Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “We’ve lost a national treasure, the eye of a genius”. He said Godard was a “master” of cinema – “the most iconoclastic of the Nouvelle Vague”.
Film-makers who paid tribute included Last Night in Soho director Edgar Wright, who called him “one of the most influential, iconoclastic film-makers of them all”.
Born in Paris in 1930, Godard grew up and went to school in Nyon, on the banks of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. After moving back to Paris after finishing school in 1949, Godard found a natural habitat in the intellectual “cine-clubs” that flourished in the French capital after the war, and proved the crucible of the French New Wave.
Having met the likes of critic André Bazin and future fellow directors François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Jacques Rivette, Godard began writing for the new film magazines, including Bazin’s soon-to-be-influential Cahiers du Cinema. Godard struck a maverick note from the start, defending traditional Hollywood film-making and promoting the likes of Howard Hawks and Otto Preminger over more fashionable figures. Godard also had a reverence for Humphrey Bogart, something that would come out in his first feature, Breathless, which he released in 1960.