Jean-Luc Godard, French New Wave director, dies at 91

Jean-Luc Godard, the influential French New Wave writer-director who broke new floor in cinematic expression within the Nineteen Sixties with movies comparable to “Breathless,” “Contempt” and “Weekend” and have become a guiding gentle to fellow filmmakers all through his greater than six-decade profession, has died. He was 91.

A number of French media shops reported that they’d realized the information of Godard’s demise from the filmmaker’s family Tuesday. French President Emmanuel Macron hailed Godard as a “national treasure” who had “invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art” along with his pioneering works.

Eternally content material to forgo industrial success in alternate for creative freedom, Godard was probably the most creative and radical of the administrators of the French New Wave, which upended European cinema within the Fifties and ‘60s, reflecting their personal visions and challenging traditional filmmaking conventions.

Like fellow New Wave directors Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette and Claude Chabrol, the movie-obsessed Godard came to filmmaking after being a critic. He was among the earliest contributors to the influential French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema, the birthplace of the auteur theory, which asserts that the director can be the “author” of a film, in the same way a writer is the author of a novel.

“Godard was one of the inventors of the auteur theory and perhaps the most rigorous of the New Wave filmmakers in putting that idea into practice,” film critic David Sterritt told The Times in 2006.

“Every one of his films and videos is intensely personal to him and represents his own utterly unique views of the world and the people in it,” Sterritt said.

Godard already had directed several short films when, at 29, he captured international attention in 1960 with his first feature film, “Breathless,” a boldly innovative homage to American gangster B-movies.

Shot on location in Paris, the low-budget romantic crime-drama starred Jean-Paul Belmondo as an amoral young thug with a Humphrey Bogart fixation who is on the run after stealing a car and killing a cop. His love interest is an American girl, played by Jean Seberg, who winds up betraying him.

“Breathless” became famous for its rule-breaking use of hand-held cameras that circled the action, natural lighting, direct sound recording, jump-cut editing and sense of spontaneity — as well as for its unabashed references to Hollywood films.

“Modern movies begin here,” the late Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert wrote of “Breathless” in 2003. “No debut film since ‘Citizen Kane’ in 1942 has been as influential.”

Through the Nineteen Sixties alone, Godard directed almost 30 shorts and options, together with “Le Petit Soldat,” “A Woman Is a Woman,” “My Life to Live,” “Les Carabiniers,” “Band of Outsiders,” “A Married Woman,” “Alphaville,” “Masculine Feminine,” “Pierrot Le Fou,” “2 or 3 Things I Know About Her” and “Weekend,” which famously includes a tragicomic seven-minute monitoring shot of a visitors jam created by a horrific crash.

By the late ‘60s, Godard had embarked on what Sterritt called his “ultra-radical political phase” as a filmmaker.

As Julia Lesage wrote in her 1979 bibliography, “Jean-Luc Godard: A Guide to References and Resources”: “Godard seemed to be searching both for the best way to make a political film and the best way to integrate his metier, filmmaking, with militant Marxist-Leninist political activity.”

By the late 1970s, Sterritt said, Godard had returned to filmmaking geared slightly more to a theatrical audience, although the films remained artistically radical.

“The important thing about Godard is he broke all the rules, and he showed that everything could be cinematic if your conceptualization — your ideas — were bold enough,” Marsha Kinder, a professor of critical studies at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, told The Times in 2006.

“No matter how apocalyptic or bleak his vision might be, his films made me feel hopeful because his brilliance and inventiveness were so dazzling,” Kinder said. “He just redefined what kind of pleasures cinema could give you.”

But for audiences, Kinder acknowledged, the rule-breaking Godard “could also be very exasperating.”

Godard looks over footage while making his 1964 film “Band of Outsiders.”

(Rialto Pictures)

Indeed, Godard was well known for challenging his audiences.

“I don’t actually like telling a narrative,” he as soon as stated. “I prefer to use a kind of tapestry, a background on which I can embroider my own ideas.”

And starting with concepts, Godard stated in a 1995 interview with The Occasions, “doesn’t help with the audience. But I still prefer a good audience. I’d rather feed 100% of 10 people. Hollywood would rather feed 1% of 1 million people. Commercially speaking, my way is not better.”

Godard’s movies influenced numerous filmmakers, together with Martin Scorsese. Whereas watching Godard’s motion pictures as a movie scholar within the ‘60s, Scorsese said he was taken with the “sense of freedom, of being able to do anything — there was a kind of joy that burst into me when I saw the movies.”

Another well-known fan, director Quentin Tarantino, named his production company A Band Apart after the French title (“Bande a Part”) for Godard’s 1964 movie “Band of Outsiders” and heeded certainly one of Godard’s maxims when he filmed “Pulp Fiction”: “A movie should have a beginning, a middle and an end, though not necessarily in that order.”

The late director Bernardo Bertolucci put it merely: “We all wanted to be Jean-Luc Godard.”

“There is no one like him in the whole history of cinema,” stated Kinder. “He took his vengeance against Hollywood. He never stopped really attacking the dominance of Hollywood cinema, and he never stopped expanding the language and subversive possibilities of cinema.

“This makes him, I think, one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of world cinema. He made everything possible.”

One in all 4 kids, Godard was born in Paris on Dec. 3, 1930. His mom was the daughter of a rich Parisian banker and his father was a Swiss doctor, who divided his work between Paris and Switzerland.

In 1933, Godard’s household moved completely to Switzerland after his father landed a place at a clinic close to the village of Gland. 5 years later, they moved to Nyon, Switzerland, the place they lived throughout World Conflict II.

After the battle, the 15-year-old Godard moved to Paris to review on the prestigious Lycee Buffon, a college that targeted on the bodily and organic sciences. He returned to Switzerland to attend a university in Lausanne in 1948, however a yr later he was again in Paris, the place he registered on the Sorbonne for a certificates in anthropology.

By then, nonetheless, Godard was so taken with cinema that he paid scant consideration to his research.

He stated he had been an off-the-cuff filmgoer till he started attending a Left Financial institution movie membership run by critic Andre Bazin, the place he met future New Wave administrators Truffaut, Rohmer and Rivette. He and his pals additionally frequently frequented Cinematheque Francaise.

“We systematically saw everything there was to see,” he instructed Jean Collet, writer of the 1970 e-book “Jean-Luc Godard.”

In 1950, Godard, Rohmer and Rivette co-founded the short-lived La Gazette du Cinema, which printed their movie criticism; it lasted solely 5 points. After Bazin co-founded Cahiers du Cinema in 1951, Godard began publishing essays there. He additionally started to study filmmaking by performing in his pals’ brief movies.

For a number of years Godard was additionally a petty thief, who stole repeatedly to help himself and was incessantly caught, in response to Colin MacCabe’s 2003 e-book, “Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy.”

French director Jean-Luc Godard

French director Jean-Luc Godard on the Berlin Movie Pageant in 1966.

(Edwin Reichert / Related Press)

Godard, MacCabe wrote, claimed to have financed Rivette’s first brief movie by stealing from an uncle. And within the early ‘50s, after working for a company constructing dams in the Swiss Alps, Godard spent three days in jail after stealing from the Swiss television service he was then working for in Zurich.

After Godard was released from jail, his father convinced him to go to a Swiss mental clinic that specialized in psychotherapy.

After several months in the clinic, Godard returned to the construction company in the Alps, where he shot his first film, a 20-minute documentary on the construction of the dam, “Operation Beton.” He then directed a 10-minute comedy short in Geneva before moving back to Paris.

In 1961, Godard married Anna Karina, who starred in “A Woman Is a Woman,” “My Life to Live,” “Band of Outsiders” and other Godard films during the ‘60s. His marriage to Karina ended in divorce — as did his marriage to Anne Wiazemsky, who starred in several of his films, including 1967’s “La Chinoise.” Godard later started a longtime relationship along with his collaborator, Anne-Marie Mieville. The 2 moved to Switzerland within the ‘70s.

In recent decades, Godard worked in both film and video. And, Sterritt said, “what some consider his magnum opus, the crowning achievement of his career,” is Godard’s “Histoire(s) du Cinema,” a multi-segment video work launched in 1989. His later movies included “Goodbye to Language,” a fragmented movie in 3D a few younger couple who talk by means of their pet canine.

Late in life, Godard appeared happy however baffled that critics have been nonetheless analyzing his work. He conceded, nonetheless, that the viewers for his movies had grown small.

“I never understand why I’m remembered,” he as soon as instructed The Occasions. “I always wonder why I’m still known because nobody sees my movies now. Well, almost nobody.”

McLellan is a former Occasions employees author.