Jean-Luc Godard death: French New Wave director dies aged 91

Jean-Luc Godard, the revered filmmaker regarded as a giant of the French New Wave movement, has died at the age of 91.

He was known for directing a run of radical, medium-changing films throughout the 1960s, including Breathless and Alphaville.

News of Godard’s death was reported by the French newspaper Liberation.

Along with contemporaries such as Éric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, and François Truffaut, the Paris-born Godard was a central figure in the Nouvelle Vague, an experimental film movement that emerged in France in the late 1950s.

Several of his films are frequently cited among the best movies ever made.

Godard’s first feature was Breathless, released in 1960, an experimental tribute to American film noir. Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo as a hoodlum named Michel, and Jean Seberg as his American girlfriend, the film caused a stir with its unusual visual style and editing techniques, immediately announcing Godard as one of cinema’s great innovators.

From 1961 to 1965, the French-Swiss director was married to actor Anna Karina. It was with Karina that Godard enjoyed some of his most memorable screen collaborations, including in Vivre sa vie (1962), Bande à part (1964) and Pierrot le Fou (1965).

Several of Godard’s films were controversial in the time of their making, such as Le Petit Soldat, an early film of his that dealt with the Algerian war of independence. While the film was eventually released in 1963, it was initially banned in France due to its depiction of the French government.

Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel Poiccard and Jean Seberg as Patricia Franchini in ‘Breathless' (StudioCanal)
Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel Poiccard and Jean Seberg as Patricia Franchini in ‘Breathless' (StudioCanal)

Between 1967 and 1979, Godard was married to actor Anne Wiazemsky, who starred in several of his films, among them La Chinoise (1967), Week End (1967), and One Plus One (1968).

In 1970, Godard met Anne-Marie Miéville, who became his collaborator and later romantic partner.

Godard continued to work prolifically into later life, enjoying what many considered to be a career resurgance towards the end of the 20th century.

His 2014 film Goodbye to Language and 2018 documentary The Image Book were both given prestigious awards at the Cannes Film Festival.

French president Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Godard in a tweet, writing: “It was like an apparition in French cinema. Then he became a master.

“Jean-Luc Godard, the most iconoclastic of New Wave filmmakers, had invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art. We have lost a national treasure, one regarded as a genius.”