Widely deemed as the father of French new wave cinema, legendary French-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard has died at the age of 91.
Godard’s lawyer confirmed his passing earlier today. His medical report stated that he had chosen to end his own life through medical assistance, a practice known as euthanasia. He “had recourse to legal assistance in Switzerland for a voluntary departure” as he was “stricken with multiple incapacitating illnesses”, Godard’s legal council told AFP. The director died peacefully at home in Switzerland with their wife, Annie-Marie Miéville.
His passing is a devastating one for film enthusiasts around the world. Jean-Luc Godard was arguably one of the most influential, if not the most influential, French filmmaker of the post-war era. His work “revolutionized the motion picture” through its experimentation with narrative, camerawork, continuity, and sound, according to AllMovie.
Godard always had a penchant for resisting tradition. He was an ardent critic of French cinema’s habit of “Tradition of Quality,” which asserted established conventions in storytelling over artistic innovation. The dominant culture’s stifling of creativity was the flame that lit the match, leading Godard and several of his contemporaries to become famed filmmakers of the French New Wave–a movement that rejected Hollywood standards in favor of thematic and rebellious experimentation. The spirit of iconoclasm, in particular, stood out in Godard’s work, his earliest titles being short films such as Opération béton (1955).
But what earned Godard his first round of global acclaim was his 1960 Breathless, a pioneering French New Wave film; it was also Godard’s first feature-length work. Breathless is a crime drama that follows a young criminal on the run with his American love interest. The story ends in tragedy, but its narrative, unique cinematography (which popularized jump cuts), and despairing motifs have earned the film the title of being one of the best movies of all time. Jean-Luc’s style was officially established, and enthusiasts now know him for the Marxist themes, individualism, and nihilism that would be woven into the director’s lengthy filmographic legacy. He would go on to win a plethora of awards during the course of his life as the man who would tie commercial success with that of the artist.
“‘What is your greatest ambition in life?’
To become immortal… and then die.” ― Jean-Luc Godard, Breathless