Tributes Pour in For Jean-Luc Godard, Late Director and Pioneer of the French New Wave

Jean-Luc Godard filming in Paris in the 1960s
Courtesy of @cinemathequefr

Jean-Luc Godard, the highly influential director and pioneer of the French New Wave movement in the 1960s, has died at age 91. “Jean-Luc Godard died peacefully in his home surrounded with his close ones, his family said in a statement, noting that there will not be an official ceremony. “He will be incinerated.” They did not mention a cause of death, though the French publication Libération has reported that he carried out his plans to die of assisted suicide in his home of Switzerland, where it is legal.

Born in Paris, Godard worked as a film critic before making the types of films that would influence and be heralded by film critics for generations to come. That started in 1960 with Breathless, aka À bout de souffle, starring Jean Seberg (and her striped shirt, pixie cut, and copies of the New York Herald Tribune). Godard encouraged Seberg and her costar Jean-Paul Belmondo to improvise and embraced abrupt jump cuts—breaks from the norm that went on to influence heavyweights such as Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese. Godard himself was well aware of its impact. “It was a film that took everything that cinema had done—girls, gangsters, cars—exploded all this and put an end, once and for all, to the old style,” he once said of the film.

At that point, Godard was just getting started. Through films such as Pierrot le Fou, Vivre Sa Vie, and Contempt, he exhibited a style so unique that it was key in the creation and legacy of the cinematic movement known as the French New Wave—a riposte to traditional filmmaking whose members included Agnès Varda, Jacques Demy, and François Truffaut. From there, Godard became not only influential, but also prolific. By the time his final film, The Image Book, premiered in 2018, he had screened no less than 21 films at the Cannes Film Festival. (Many of which starred his muse and eventually wife Anna Karina.)

In a testament to Godard’s impact, French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the late director immediately after the news of his passing broke. “We have lost a national treasure, a man who had the vision of a genius,” he wrote in French. Lena Dunham, Last Night in Soho director Edgar Wright, and more admirers quickly followed suit. Keep track of the remembrances, here.