French-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard a key figure in the Nouvelle Vague,
the filmmaking movement that revolutionized cinema in the late 1950s and 60s has
died aged 91.
A family representative said he died by assisted suicide in Switzerland.
In a tribute on Twitter, Mr Macron wrote: “He was like an apparition in French
cinema. Then he became a master of it.
“Jean-Luc Godard, the most iconoclastic of New Wave filmmakers, invented a
resolutely modern, intensely free art. We have lost a national treasure, a man who
had the vision of a genius.”
Godard’s legal advisor Patrick Jeanneret told the AFP news agency that the Franco-
Swiss film-maker “had recourse to legal assistance in Switzerland for a voluntary
departure as he was stricken with ‘multiple invalidating illnesses’, according to the
Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland in some circumstances.
Godard started as a film critic before stepping behind the camera with the stylish
and edgy Breathless. Its stars Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo were glamorous
in a new, casual way, while the camera was constantly moving, the editing was swift
and bold, and the script semi-improvised.
The director once said: “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
That was followed by Le Petit Soldat (The Little Soldier) – although the film was
banned until 1963 because of its depiction of government-sanctioned torture.
Its cast included Danish model Anna Karina, who married Godard in 1961 and went
on to appear in a string of his most successful films.
She played a nightclub dancer who wants a baby in 1961’s Une Femme est une
Femme (A Woman Is A Woman); a young Parisian prostitute in 1962’s Vivre sa vie
(My Life to Live); and a gang member in Bande à Part (Band of Outsiders) in 1965.
Tarantino named his production company A Band Apart, in reference to the latter
film’s original title, and once said Godard was “so influential” to him as a director.
“Godard is one who taught me the fun and the freedom and the joy of breaking
rules… I consider Godard to be to cinema what Bob Dylan was to music,” he said.
Godard’s rich seam of influential films in the 1960s also included Alphaville and Le
Contempt, from 1963, starring Brigitte Bardot, was named by Scorsese as one of his
10 favourite movies. It is “one of the most moving films of its era” and Godard was
“the great modern visual artists of cinema”, the Taxi Driver director wrote in 2014.
Godard’s storylines also mixed up time and space, changing the idea of a fixed
narrative. He once said: “A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end – but
not necessarily in that order.”
He had more than 100 films to his name in total, also including Une Femme Mariée
(1964), Pierrot le fou (1965), Masculin Féminin (1966) and Week-end (1967).