French president Emmanuel Macron called Jean-Luc Godard as “the most iconoclastic of New Wave filmmakers, who had invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art. We are losing a national treasure, a look of genius.”
As the news of the demise of French-Swiss director Godard at the age of 91 on Tuesday hit social media, film buffs around the world mourned the loss of one of the most influential movie makers of all times. Known for his ground-breaking debut, ‘Breathless’, Godard never stopped pushing the envelope of his creativity.
The prolific icon was not known to rest. Godard presented his last film ‘The Image Book’, a kaleidoscopic bulletin spanning 200 years of history, in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018 and was celebrated with the Special Palme d’Or. Godard was also planning to adapt ‘The Image Book’ into an exhibit in Paris, Madrid, New York and Singapore before the pandemic hit, notes ‘Variety’.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences awarded Godard an Honorary Oscar at a 2010 event. Godard didn’t come to accept; it would have been surprising if he had (he was always the maverick outsider and Oscar is the ultimate symbol of the film establishment).
Born into a wealthy French-Swiss family on December 3, 1930 in Paris, Godard grew up in Nyon, Switzerland, studied ethnology at the Sorbonne in France’s capital, where he was increasingly drawn to the cultural scene that flourished in the Latin Quarter cine-club after World War II.
He became friends with future big-name directors Francois Truffaut, Jacques Rivette and Eric Rohmer and in 1950 founded the short-lived Gazette du Cinema. By 1952 he had begun writing for the prestigious movie magazine Cahiers du Cinema.
After working on two films by Rivette and Rohmer in 1951, Godard tried to direct his first movie while travelling through North and South America with his father, but never finished it.
Back in Europe, he took a job in Switzerland as a construction worker on a dam project. He used the pay to finance his first complete film, the 1954 Operation Concrete, a 20-minute documentary about the building of the dam. Returning to Paris, Godard worked as spokesman for an artists’ agency and made his first feature in 1957 All Boys Are Called Patrick, released in 1959 and continued to hone his writing.
He also began work on Breathless, based on a story by Truffaut. It was to be Godard’s first big success when it was released in March 1960.
The movie stars Belmondo as a penniless young thief who models himself on Hollywood movie gangsters and who, after he shoots a police officer, goes on the run to Italy with his American girlfriend, played by Jean Seeberg. He spiced it all up with references to Hollywood gangster movies, and nods to literature and visual art.