Hollywood Remembers Jean-Luc Godard: Filmmakers Pay Tribute to New Wave Iconoclast

·8 min read

French New Wave auteur Jean-Luc Godard’s lasting legacy on cinema was embodied by the thousands of tributes to the late “Breathless” director.

Godard died at age 91 of assisted suicide in Switzerland, where the elective injection is legal. “He was not sick, he was simply exhausted,” a Godard family member told press outlets. The director’s longtime legal advisor Patrick Jeannere confirmed to The New York Times that Godard suffered from “multiple disabling pathologies.”

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“He could not live like you and me, so he decided with a great lucidity, as he had all his life, to say, ‘Now, it’s enough,’” Jeanneret said.

Fellow directors, film critics, and actors paid tribute to the late “Band of Outsiders” icon.

French President Emmanuel Macron honored Godard in a social media statement, writing, “It was like an appearance in French cinema. Then he became a master. Jean-Luc Godard, the most iconoclastic of New Wave filmmakers, had invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art. We are losing a national treasure, a look of genius.”

Martin Scorsese told The Guardian that Godard “redefined the very idea of what a movie was and where it could go,” starting with “Breathless.”

“No one was as daring as Godard,” Scorsese shared. “You’d watch ‘Vivre Sa Vie’ or ‘Contempt’ or Made in USA and you had the impression that he was actually taking apart his own movie and rebuilding it before your eyes. You never knew what to expect from moment to moment, even from frame to frame – that’s how deep his engagement with cinema went.”

The “Raging Bull” auteur continued, “He never made a picture that settled into any one rhythm or mood or point of view, and his films never lulled you into a dream state. They woke you up. They still do – and they always will. It’s difficult to think that he’s gone. But if any artist can be said to have left traces of his own presence in his art, it’s Godard. And I must say right now, when so many people have gotten used to seeing themselves defined as passive consumers, his movies feel more necessary and alive than ever.”

Claire Denis recalled that Godard’s “presence” made her a braver filmmaker. “His films gave a belief not in cinema – for I was already a believer – but in how I had to find my own path, even with my extremely small gifts,” Denis said. “He quoted – stole, even – from films, paintings, music and literature from the whole world, but I believe his spirit resided in the middle of Europe: a continent heavy with history. With Le Petit Soldat, Godard revealed a side of France during the Algerian liberation war. Today there is war in Europe again, so let’s watch ‘Je Vous Salue, Sarajevo’ once more.”

“Call Me By Your Name” and “Bones and All” director Luca Guadgnino wrote, “The sublime power of the name Jean-Luc Godard, or I should say of the forever legendary acronym JLG, came into my consciousness when I was 14. It was 1985 and in the dark and oppressed Palermo of my teenage years I bumped in a wildly raging group of people screaming in front of a theatre where Hail Mary was playing.”

The “Suspiria” auteur continued, “How, I wondered, could a movie create such a violent reaction? Then I saw the movie, and through its luminous terse beauty I completely learned the power of ideas. Godard was a shining light that showed us the way, movie after movie, idea after idea, language. We are more lonely today and yet his astonishing cinema will forever be our guide.”

Paul Schrader called cinema Godard’s “Rubik’s Cube,” with the legendary New Wave director forever changing the art form. “In cinema, there was before Godard and after Godard,” Schrader shared. “For 15 years he disassembled cinema, reassembled it, disassembled it until it became his personal Rubik’s Cube.”

Kelly Reichardt said, “I know what Dave Hickey means when he says there’s the way the world looked before Andy Warhol and the way it looked after. Isn’t it the same with Godard? There’s the way films look before him and the way they look after. He was so prolific and lived such a long life. There’s a deep well for us all to keep drinking from.”

“Padre Pio” director Abel Ferrara called Godard’s passing a “sad day,” while remembering classic works like “A Woman Is a Woman,” “Alphaville,” and Ferrara’s personal favorite, “All the Boys Are Called Patrick.”

“Last Night in Soho” director Edgar Wright penned, “RIP Jean-Luc Godard, 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…As one of a zillion examples, I discovered while making my @sparksofficial doc that myself & Russell Mael had made, 25 years apart, near identical Breathless/Godard spoofs at college. His was ‘Très sérieux’ and mine was ‘À Bout De Lemon Souffle’. Apologies JLG. Nous t’aimons! x.”

Lena Dunham wrote, “Anna Karina looking up at Godard adoringly like we all have for so many years… RIP JLG- you filmed the things that made us flirt with new realms and we will miss you as you turn the next life black & white.”

James Gunn took to Twitter, writing, “RIP Jean-Luc Godard, one of the giants of cinema & one of the progenitors of the French New Wave. His films aren’t always easy, but his work affects most directors today, whether they know it or not. My favorite film of his is the glorious ‘Breathless.'”

IndieWire’s Eric Kohn tweeted, “RIP. Jean-Luc Godard, maestro of cinema, eternal badass. He challenged the world with images and chronicled its decline. He WAS the movies, and they will live forever.”

 

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