Pioneer of French New Wave cinema Jean-Luc Godard dies aged 91

REUTERS - Christian Hartmann

Jean-Luc Godard, one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century and the father of the French New Wave, died peacefully at his home in Switzerland on Tuesday. He was 91 years old. His legal counsel later confirmed he died by assisted suicide.

"Jean-Luc Godard died peacefully at his home surrounded by his loved ones. No official ceremony will take place. He will be cremated," said the brief statement from his partner Anne-Marie Miéville and his production company.

"He who jumps into the void owes no explanation to those who stand and watch," Jean-Luc Godard once remarked, going on to turn French cinema on its head.

He rose to prominence in particular with his 1960 debut film "A Bout de Souffle" ("Breathless") starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg.

A huge public and critical success, it became a landmark film in the French New Wave movement with its references to American cinema, use of jazz music and its rough editing.

"I rather made films like two or three musicians from jazz: we give ourselves a theme, we play and then it gets organized", he once said.

Godard went on to make a number of films including "Le Mépris" ("Contempt"), in 1963, with Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli, and "Alphaville" a science fiction film which won a Golden Bear in Berlin in 1965.

One of his other notable successes was "Pierrot le Fou" (1965) again with Belmondo, partnered with Anna Karina, who was married to the director between 1961-1967.

"Godard is a creator, a real filmmaker", said French actor Alain Delon who starred in the 1990 film "Nouvelle Vague".

"He is someone who has something to say, who has a particular cinematographic style".

Jean-Luc Godard was born on 3 December, 1930 in Paris into a Franco-Swiss family. His father was a doctor who owned a private clinic, and his mother came from a family of Swiss bankers.

During World War II Godard became a naturalized citizen of Switzerland and attended school in Nyons.

As a young man, he devoted himself as much to sport as to painting.

Later in Paris, where he obtained a master's degree in ethnology at the Sorbonne, Godard wrote as a critic for "Gazette du Cinéma" and "Les Cahiers du Cinéma". He rubbed shoulders with enthusiasts like François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette and Claude Chabrol.

In 1967 he directed "La Chinoise", with Anne Wiazemsky (who had become his wife at the time) and Jean-Pierre Léaud, who, like Belmondo, had become one of his favorite actors.

It was the high point of Godard's political period, which plunged him into the upheaval of May 1968 and artistic activism: for him cinema was a way of fighting against the system.

Godard was one of the most active filmmakers in the initiative to suspend the Cannes Film Festival that year in support of protesting students.

Godard also addressed the Algerian war and later, the conflict in Vietnam.

After an experimental phase in the 1970s, Godard returned to the scene in the 1980s by releasing several films including "Sauve qui peut (la vie)" ("Every man for himself").

Throughout his career, the director was decorated with a dozen awards, including an honorary Oscar.

He continued to surprise audiences with his experimental work such as his "Film Socialisme", screened at Cannes in 2010 in the Un Certain Regard selection, and "Adieu au langues" ("Goodbye to Language") which won the Jury Prize (ex-aequo) in 2014.

In 2018 his unconventional essay film on the Arab world "Le livre d'image" ("The Image Book"), won a Special Palme d'or.

"There is a before and after Jean-Luc Godard", former French Culture minister Jack Lang told France Info.

"Everything with him was a fresh look, a revolutionary look, a breaking look. He was a new sovereign of the seventh art. He constantly questioned the power of the image", Lang said.

"We've lost a national treasure; the vision of a genius," French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.