Jean-Luc Godard, the French-Swiss director of Vivre Sa Vie and Contempt who changed the course of filmmaking in the 1960s with his movie Breathless, died Tuesday at 91.
The Associated Press, citing Swiss news agency ATS, reports Godard's partner Anne-Marie Mieville and her producers as saying Godard died peacefully while surrounded by loved ones at his home in the town of Rolle on Lake Geneva.
Alain Berset, head of the Switzerland Department of Home Affairs, addressed Godard's death in a statement released on Twitter. "I am very touched by the announcement of the death of Jean-Luc Godard," he said, according to a translation. "Switzerland is losing one of its greatest filmmakers. His works have inspired generations of directors around the world, his immense legacy and influence will go down in history."
Je suis très touché par l’annonce du décès de Jean-Luc Godard. La Suisse perd l’un de ses plus grands cinéastes. Ses œuvres ont inspiré des générations de réalisateurs dans le monde entier, son héritage et son influence immenses marqueront l’histoire. pic.twitter.com/IUNmIMbGGH
— Alain Berset (@alain_berset) September 13, 2022
French President Emmanuel Macron said Godard "became a master" of French cinema. "Jean-Luc Godard, the most iconoclastic of New Wave filmmakers, had invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art," he said in a statement. "We are losing a national treasure, a look of genius."
Ce fut comme une apparition dans le cinéma français. Puis il en devint un maître. Jean-Luc Godard, le plus iconoclaste des cinéastes de la Nouvelle Vague, avait inventé un art résolument moderne, intensément libre. Nous perdons un trésor national, un regard de génie. pic.twitter.com/bQneeqp8on
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) September 13, 2022
Bob Dylan, in a 1985 interview with Rolling Stone (as preserved by the New Yorker), was notably quoted as saying, "I figured Godard had the accessibility to make what he made, he broke new ground. I never saw any film like Breathless, but once you saw it, you said: 'Yeah, man, why didn't I do that, I could have done that.' OK, he did it, but he couldn't have done it in America."
Breathless, released in March 1960, was Godard's first big successful film. The French crime drama starred Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michael, a criminal who models himself on Hollywood gangsters like Humphrey Bogart. He goes on the run from authorities after shooting a policeman and turns to Patricia (Jean Seberg), an American student and aspiring journalist. (Belmondo died a year earlier at the age of 88.)
The film became notable for its stark shift in narrative storytelling, bold visuals, and use of jump-cuts. Along with François Truffaut's The 400 Blows and Alain Resnais's Hiroshima mon amour, which had both released in theaters a year earlier, Breathless is credited as sparking a new movement in French cinema that the press would call "La Nouvelle Vague" (the New Wave).
CHRISTOPHE D YVOIRE/Sygma via Getty Images Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, a revolutionary voice in French New Wave cinema, died at the age of 91.
Godard was also known for taking a political stance in his work. One clear example was The Little Soldier, which was meant to be released in theaters in 1960 but was banned by the French government until 1963. Its content, which referenced the French colonial war in Algeria, implied that France was involved in a dirty war.
Another example was 1967's Weekend, which tackled the hypocrisies of bourgeoisie society. One of the most notorious scenes from the film is an eight-minute tracking shot of the main Parisian couple stuck in a traffic jam as they leave the city.
Those paying tribute to Godard in light of his death shows the reach and influence his work had in Hollywood.
"RIP Jean-Luc Godard, one of the most influential, iconoclastic film-makers of them all," tweeted director Edgar Wright (the Cornetto trilogy, Last Night in Soho). "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..."
Others paying tribute on social media include filmmakers like Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange, The Black Phone) and Peyton Reed (Ant-Man, Bring It On), actor Stephen Fry (Gosford Park), and organizations like BAFTA, the Cannes Film Festival, and TCM.
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
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) September 13, 2022
Goodbye Jean-Luc Godard. He changed the form of cinema like Bob Dylan changed the form of music. pic.twitter.com/PDXr4SNqjg
— N O S ⋊ Ɔ I ᴚ ᴚ Ǝ ᗡ ⊥ ⊥ O Ɔ S (@scottderrickson) September 13, 2022
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Jean-Luc Godard. He was a leading figure in the French New Wave movement whose work revolutionized cinema. @THR remembers him here. https://t.co/BinFW0pNpz
— TCM (@tcm) September 13, 2022
Adieu, Jean-Luc Godard. I watched Breathless for the umpteenth time again just two weeks ago. It still leaps off the screen like few movies. That scene between them in the hotel: how many other directors could have managed that in so small a space and made it so captivating?
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) September 13, 2022
We are saddened to hear that highly acclaimed and influential film director, screenwriter and film critic, Jean-Luc Godard, has died at the age of 91. https://t.co/BkOyJo2lvK
— BAFTA (@BAFTA) September 13, 2022
Depuis sa 1ère apparition au Festival dans Cleo de 5 à 7 en 1962, 21 films de Jean-Luc Godard ont été projetés à Cannes. Agitateur de la manifestation de mai 1968, Prix du Jury en 2014 avec Adieu au langage, il reçoit une Palme d'or spéciale pour l'ensemble de son œuvre en 2018. pic.twitter.com/BfAdIPeSNt
— Festival de Cannes (@Festival_Cannes) September 13, 2022