Jean-Luc Godard, French New Wave Director, Dies by Assisted Suicide in Switzerland at 91

·2 min read
Editorial use only. /NO SALES/NO ARCHIVES Mandatory Credit: Photo by GAETAN BALLY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13387191a) Swiss-French director Jean-Luc Godard attends the award ceremony of the 'Grand Prix Design' at the Museum of Design Zurich in Zurich, Switzerland, 30 November 2010 (issued 13 September 2022). Godard died on 13 September 2022, at the a ge of 91, the French newspaper Liberation reported by citing people close to the Franco-Swiss director. Swiss-French director Jean-Luc Godard dies at 91, Zurich, Switzerland - 30 Nov 2010
Editorial use only. /NO SALES/NO ARCHIVES Mandatory Credit: Photo by GAETAN BALLY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13387191a) Swiss-French director Jean-Luc Godard attends the award ceremony of the 'Grand Prix Design' at the Museum of Design Zurich in Zurich, Switzerland, 30 November 2010 (issued 13 September 2022). Godard died on 13 September 2022, at the a ge of 91, the French newspaper Liberation reported by citing people close to the Franco-Swiss director. Swiss-French director Jean-Luc Godard dies at 91, Zurich, Switzerland - 30 Nov 2010

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Legendary film director Jean-Luc Godard has died at age 91.

Godard, a founding member of the New Wave cinema, died at his home Tuesday by assisted suicide in Rolle, Switzerland, where that practice is legal, Godard's longtime legal adviser Patrick Jeanneret told The New York Times.

Jeanneret added that the filmmaker had "multiple disabling pathologies" and "decided with a great lucidity, as he had all his life, to say, 'Now, it's enough.' "

Born in Paris to a French-Swiss family, Godard was a rarely commercial, often radical, filmmaker whose first film Breathless (A Bout de Souffle) catapulted both the director and French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo to international acclaim. The picture, which also starred American actress Jean Seberg, was later remade with Richard Gere in the starring role.

A gritty tribute to American gangster pictures filtered through post-war French urbanism, the film managed to capture a wry and self-derisive charm.

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(GERMANY OUT) Der französische Regisseur Jean-Luc Godard blickt durch eine Kamera der Marke Chevereau während der Dreharbeiten zu dem Film
(GERMANY OUT) Der französische Regisseur Jean-Luc Godard blickt durch eine Kamera der Marke Chevereau während der Dreharbeiten zu dem Film

team-press X/ullstein bild via Getty

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Following his breakout, Godard directed a series of highly acclaimed, successful films including Contempt (Le Mépris) with Brigitte Bardot, Alphaville with American tough-guy actor Eddie Constantine, and Pierrot le Fou with Belmondo.

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Never shy about injecting politics into his work, Godard produced a documentary on France's war in Algeria that was banned. In later years, his films were frequently attacked as polemics, though he had enjoyed something of a revival in the last decade.

NEW YORK, NY - CIRCA 1980: Jean-Luc Godard circa 1980 in New York City. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - CIRCA 1980: Jean-Luc Godard circa 1980 in New York City. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)

PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty

His 2014 film Goodbye to Language and a 2018 documentary were both shown at the Cannes Film Festival, receiving awards. And, prior to that, in 2010, Godard was awarded an Honorary Oscar "for passion, for confrontation, for a new kind of cinema."

He did not, however, travel to the ceremony to accept the award, and he reportedly told a local news outlet at the time that the honor meant "nothing" to him: "If the Academy likes to do it, let them do it. But I think it's strange. I asked myself: Which of my films have they seen? Do they actually know my films? The award is called the Governor's Award — does this mean that Schwarzenegger gives me the award?"

French President Emmanuel Macron wrote in eulogy on Twitter, translated to English, "It was like an apparition in French cinema. Then he became a master. Jean-Luc Godard, the most iconoclastic filmmaker of the New Wave, had invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art. We are losing a national treasure, a look of genius."