Jean-Luc Godard, director of ‘A bout de souffle’ and icon of the French new wave, died at 91 – Rolling Stone

Jean-Luc Godard, the father of modern cinema whose playful and combative provocations threw down a gauntlet with which all who came in his wake must wrestle, died on Tuesday. He was 91 years old.

The director died at his home by assisted suicide in Rolle, Switzerland, where the practice is legal, said longtime Godard legal adviser Patrick Jeanneret. The New York Times. Jeanneret added that the filmmaker suffered from “multiple disabling pathologies” and “decided with great lucidity, as he has done all his life, to say: ‘Now, that’s enough'”.

In a career that began with the groundbreaking works of the 1960s Breathless, the Franco-Swiss director tore up Hollywood conventions, inspiring generations of filmmakers after him to embrace a creative freedom they didn’t know was possible. Alongside compatriots such as François Truffaut, Godard was one of the driving forces of the French New Wave, which turned its back on the tasteful dramas of the time, playing instead with narrative, editing, sound and the image to reinvent the possibilities of cinematographic narration. movies like Contempt, Bunch of strangers, and Pierrot le fou lit a fire under a nascent American scene that would ultimately produce the Hollywood revival of the 1970s, as directors such as Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola brought Godard’s adventure to the studio system, resulting in resulted in some of the most personal and singular films of the decade. And even in his recent work, Godard has continued to uphold an uncompromising commitment to his own vision, unafraid of public or critical reaction. “I prefer to work when there are people I have to fight against,” he once said.

Godard was born on December 3, 1930 in Paris, into a wealthy family, moving to Switzerland at the age of four. “I escaped from a bourgeois family for show business,” he said. “And then I discovered that show business was a bigger bourgeois family than mine.” In the 1950s, he befriended other young Parisian intellectuals such as Truffaut and Jacques Rivette, debating films and writing reviews. But his ambition does not stop there: Godard consumes several films a day in local film libraries, all with the aim of possibly making his own. A critic for the highly influential French film publication Cinema Notebooks and an early proponent of the auteur theory—which held that a director was the true author of a film and that filmmakers were as culturally important as painters or novelists—Godard hoped to create films informed by the philosophical notions laid out by the thinker and author Jean-Paul Sartre. “I had encyclopaedic tendencies,” Godard would later say. “I wanted to read everything. I wanted to know everything. Existentialism was at its peak at this time. Through Sartre, I discovered literature, and he led me to everything else.

His beginnings, Breathless, turned existentialism into art, drawing inspiration from crime drama, film noir and romantic comedy while stripping away comforting conventions. The story of aimless young lovers (Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg), Breathless incorporated skipped cuts and indifferent plots to produce the first postmodern film – a film about the fallacy of films that sought to present the ordinary, unpredictability and spark of real life that normally never made it to the big screen . Breathless won the prize for directing at the Berlin Festival and, above all, contributed to the launch of the French New Wave, alongside Truffaut The 400 blows and other films from the nation’s generation of innovative, hungry young filmmakers.

After BreathlessGodard never stopped playing with the constraints of the medium, turning Contempt (apparently the story of a troubled love affair) into a melancholy, self-reflective commentary on commercial cinema. Its sci-fi/noir hybrid Alphaville, which doubles as an examination of dehumanization and spiritual desolation, anticipated later genre mashups such as Blade runner. Then with Weekend, the filmmaker used a familiar road trip tale to tackle everything from the moral rot of society, to revolution and upper-class privilege. Critic of America’s involvement in Vietnam and contemptuous of consumerism, Godard fashioned his films as political statements that, nonetheless, were intoxicatingly youthful and vital, dressing up brilliantly as they went.

In the late ’60s, the filmmaker began to lose his grip on the zeitgeist as he moved further and further away from accessibility in search of what he once described as “a new alphabet in the language of cinema”. But in 1980, he put aside video projects and experimental digressions to return triumphantly to a relatively traditional narration with Every man for himself. Retracing the lives of three interconnected characters, Every man for himself earned Godard some of his best reviews in more than a decade – but he remained a provocateur, cheekily incorporating slow-motion sequences to accentuate the emotional states of his protagonists and frankly portraying the main male character, a director, as a violent misogynist. (A Los Angeles theater owner complained, “Our viewers have been personally offended, personally insulted, that we should expose them to such a film that shows in detail how men abuse women.”

Always going against the current, Godard refused to declare Every man for himself a return. “For me it’s not a comeback but an approach,” he said. The New York Times, later adding, “Maybe in two or 10 years I’ll reach the point of doing a proper feature film – which I’ve never done.” As if to prove his point, Godard stubbornly continues to go his own way, whether in his modern depiction of the Virgin Mary in 1985 I salute you marie or its bizarre translation of King Lear, which is the only Shakespeare adaptation to include performances by Norman Mailer, Burgess Meredith, Molly Ringwald and Woody Allen. At the same time, he will also work on ambitious documentary projects, including History(ies) of Cinema, a four-plus-hour look at 20th-century filmmaking that took a decade to complete.

Say goodbye to a century old enfant terrible showed no signs of slowing down at the dawn of the 2000s. At 70, he comes out In praise of love, a meditation on cinema and, more specifically, on the inability of cinema to fight against the Holocaust. In the film, an elderly Jewish couple’s life rights may be bought by Steven Spielberg – Godard’s harsh condemnation of the Oscar-winning actor Schindler’s List. “Spielberg thinks black and white is more serious than color,” Godard once said, adding, “That’s false thinking. For him, it’s not bogus, I think he’s being honest with himself, but he’s not very smart, so it’s a bogus result. … [He] used [Oskar Schindler] and this story and all the Jewish tragedy as if it were a big orchestra, to make stereophonic sound out of a simple story.

A growing pessimism inspired Godard’s work in the 21st century, though he found him still engaged in cutting-edge filmmaking technology. In praise of love was partly filmed on digital video, while the relatively playful Farewell to the language Built-in dazzling 3D. But in a 2005 interview, he seemed to overlook the medium’s abilities to reshape the world. “It’s over,” he said. “There was a time perhaps when cinema could have improved society, but that time has been missed.”

Godard’s grim outlook contradicts the waves of filmmakers influenced by his fearlessness, from Bernardo Bertolucci to Brian De Palma to Jonathan Demme and Quentin Tarantino. Iconoclastic Hollywood films such as Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider are unimaginable without Breathless, and the American film industry made its appreciation official by presenting him with an honorary Oscar in 2011. He declined to attend the ceremony, telling a reporter that the award meant “nothing” to him. “If the Academy likes to do it, let them do it,” he said. “But I think it’s strange. I asked myself: Which of my films have they seen? Do they really know my films?

Those who did were forever changed by them – even when he challenged his audience, which he often did. At the end of the 1960s, he made a film about the Rolling Stones entitled Sympathy for the Devil, and was asked his opinion on the Stones’ rivals, the Beatles. “Well, I really like them,” he replied. “I think the Beatles work the same way I do movies. But I prefer the Rolling Stones. … The Beatles and the Rolling Stones are very important because they’re both popular and intellectual. It’s okay That’s what I try to do in movies, we have to fight the audience.

Comments are closed.