Jean-Luc Godard, daring French New Wave director, dies at 91

FILE PHOTO: Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard listens to question during a press conference for his film entry ‘Notre Musique’ which is screened out of competition at the 57th Cannes Film Festival, May 18, 2004. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo

Reuters Photographer | Reuters

Jean-Luc Godard, the iconoclastic and stylistically adventurous filmmaking giant who rose to prominence as part of the French New Wave movement in the 1960s, has died.

He was 91.

Godard’s death was confirmed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who praised the director for having “invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art.”

“We are losing a national treasure, a look of genius,” Macron wrote on Twitter.

Godard upended filmmaking conventions at every turn, delighting and puzzling audiences in nearly equal measure with art-house classics like “Breathless,” “Band of Outsiders” and “Alphaville.”

He experimented with handheld camera work, jarring “jump cuts” and other radical techniques, inspiring legions of filmmakers around the world to take a jackhammer to artistic traditions.

Godard, along with peers such as Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer, pioneered a movement known as the French New Wave (or La Nouvelle Vague), an explosion of innovative, narratively loose-limbed and wittily self-reflexive movies.

“Breathless,” Godard’s first feature-length film, embodied the verve of the French New Wave: jazzy, rough-edged, fearless. Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg starred, but Godard was practically an invisible third character, leaving his imprint on every frame.

He started out as a critic at the 1950s. In daring, highly influential work for the journal Cahiers du Cinéma, Godard rejected the staid traditions of European art cinema and advocated instead for American directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks.

Godard was known for his leftist politics, and his views — informed in part by his study of Marxism and existentialism — shaped many of his early films and made them ripe for dissection.

In recent years, Godard continued to work steadily, exploring the new possibilities of digital technology in artistically rigorous works like “Film Socialisme” (2010), “Goodbye to Language” (2014) and “The Image Book” (2018).

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