French New Wave cinema director Jean-Luc Godard passes away: NPR


Film director Jean-Luc Godard at the Cannes Festival in 1982. He was a major figure in French New Wave cinema. According to French media, he died at the age of 91.

Jean-Jacques Levy/AP


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Film director Jean-Luc Godard at the Cannes Festival in 1982. He was a major figure in French New Wave cinema. According to French media, he died at the age of 91.

Jean-Jacques Levy/AP

Influential critic and filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, surrounded by loved ones at his home in the Swiss city of Rolle, has passed away peacefully, his family said in a statement.

The family statement said Goddard, 91, had multiple illnesses and died by assisted suicide.

A leader of the French New Wave

The French New Wave director and lifelong “Enfant Terrible” helped revolutionize popular cinema in the 1960s, and spent the rest of his career pushing boundaries and recreating the cinematic form.

What audiences welcomed in Goddard’s first feature, the 1960 crime drama breathlessIt was a new blow.

American actress Jean Seberg was cast opposite the then-unknown Jean Paul Belmondo, with a cigarette dangling erotically from her lip. He played a penniless young car thief who models himself on the Hollywood movie Gangsters. After shooting a police officer, he flees to Italy with his pregnant girlfriend, Seberg, who seems almost indifferent to him.

They were the archetypes of Tinseltown, which was reinvented as the essence of cool by a director who was a big fan of Hollywood movies.

As a critic, Goddard championed directors Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks, and breathless, Humphrey Bogart, outlining what Belmondo is going to do. But with jump-cut editing, a fragmented narrative, and actors interacting with the camera, the filmmaker was positioning himself as part of a new wave in storytelling – one filled with experimentation and rejection of accepted technique.

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“He Comes Along in 1960,” criticizes David Thompson Told NPR’s David D’Arcy says, “And actually, I’ve seen all the movies I’ve ever made. I love them, most of them, but I leave them because they’re all old. I’m kind of new.” I’m going to make a film, and I’m going to combine the energy and the novelty of a student’s ideas with the story forms of old movies. And for six or seven years, two movies a year so we’re going to have a fair number of years. Talking about movies, he pulls it off.”

in pictures contempt, with Brigitte Bardot and Jack Palance, in which he charged with commercial filmmaking; in his science fiction film alphaville, which takes a private look at a society run by a computer; and most memorably in his scathing, satirical removal of middle-class materialism, WeekendA black comedy involving murder, cannibalism and an eight-minute single-shot traffic-jam-on-a-country-road, one of the most famous film moments of the 1960s.


Goddard in Cannes in 2001.

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Goddard in Cannes in 2001.

Laurent Rebers / AP

Weekend The premiere took place in May of 1968, just weeks before the shutdown of student and activist protests in much of France. Goddard led a protest that closed the Cannes Film Festival that month, telling the crowd that none of the films in the competition represented his cause.

“We are behind the times,” said this leader of the French New Wave. And in that moment, his filmmaking took a turn. He began a decade of deliberately revolutionary films – low-budget provocations, uncommercialized, shot in Palestine, Italy, Czechoslovakia, and filled with a Marxist fervor. everything is going fineFor example, starring Yves Montand and Jane Fonda in the story of striking workers at a sausage factory.

Goddard’s Growth as a Producer

This open emphasis on politics was a phase in itself, and by the 1980s, Goddard was looking inward and watching the film itself. As his art matured, he became less interested in fiction and more in experimentation, although he actually always experimented.

In a public debate in 1966, he questioned the film grammar itself, until a desperate panelist finally said, “Surely you agree that films should have a beginning, a middle and an end.”

“Yes,” admitted Goddard, “but not necessarily in that order.”

Goddard came to film in his early 20s, he told NPR.

“My parents told me about literature, some others told me about painting, about music, but no one told me about paintings.”

So he told the others. He started out as a critic and, in a sense, he remained one throughout his life in famously quoted public statements: “You need to make a movie,” he once said “There’s a girl and a gun. ”

But as time went on, he was more than happy with the girls and guns, as well as the plots. A difficult man by almost all accounts, he quarreled with his contemporaries (an argument with his friend and fellow New Wave director François Truffaut over the latter issues). day to night was not resolved in 1973 until Truffaut’s death in 1984). And in his later years, he defied the notion that contemporary Hollywood could ever make serious films.

If Goddard’s own work was more serious than his light, then in his final decades, it consisted mostly of what could be called visual “essays” – collages of film and video clips with sound and sometimes imprecise commentary – that appealed to younger and younger audiences. found .

But we still have what he achieved in the early 1960s, his innovations so ingrained in the mainstream that he has continued to influence filmmakers, some of whom hardly made sense after the New Wave got old. Have heard about them.

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