AFP/Archives – Miguel MEDINA Franco-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard during a debate in the Cinéma des Cinéastes in Paris, June 18, 2010.
News agitator Vague, he dynamited the codes of cinema with resolutely innovative films, from “A bout de souffle” to “Sauve qui peut (la vie)”: the Franco-Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard died Tuesday at the age 91 years old, taking with him a piece of the history of the 7th art.
Perpetual rebel, “JLG” as he was nicknamed lived for years in Rolle, on the shores of Lake Geneva, fleeing the world of the 7th art.
In this peaceful place, the few pedestrians walking near his house did not seem aware of his death on Tuesday. His long-time companion, director Anne-Marie Miéville, lives a stone's throw away.
“Jean-Luc Godard died peacefully at his home surrounded by his loved ones. He will be cremated”, she announced in a press release. “No official ceremony will take place”, she specifies, for the one who was fleeing the honors.
“JLG” will remain as one of the most influential directors on both sides of the Atlantic. A brilliant provocateur who revolutionized cinema for his fans, a tortured intellectual whose films are incomprehensible to his detractors.
With his death, a chapter in the history of cinema is closed, with unforgettable shots: Bardot naked on a bed, whispering “Do you like my ass?”(“Le Mépris”), Belmondo with his face smeared in blue, covered with dynamite (“Pierrot le Fou”), Jean Seberg and his New York Herald Tribune sold at auction on the Champs-Elysées (“A Bout de souffle”) …
Creator of stars
“And Godard created Contempt and it was out of breath that he joined the firmament of the last great star creators…”, reacted Brigitte Bardot on Twitter, with a photo of her, hugging the filmmaker.
And #Godard created Contempt and it was out of breath that he joined the firmament of the last great star creators… pic.twitter.com/Z9k6WeWKd0
— BRIGITTE BARDOT (@brigitte_bardot) September 13, 2022
It was through this last film that Godard, a critic for the Cahiers du cinema born in Paris on December 3, 1930, made himself known. The first feature film by the man who would later be studied in film schools also launched the career of Jean-Paul Belmondo.
Godard, who intended to turn his back on the old French post-war cinema whom he hates, will remain as the leader of the directors of the New Wave with François Truffaut.
“Godard is the greatest filmmaker in the world”, did not hesitate to say the latter. He “isn't the only one filming the way he breathes, but he's the one who breathes the best”.
For many filmmakers, through his freedom, his freedom from forms, Godard would have a major influence, like the American Quentin Tarantino, who baptized his production company “Bande à Part”, the title of a film by Godard released in 1964.
But until his death, “JLG”, whose films and statements will become more and more indecipherable over the years, never sought to achieve unanimous , quite the contrary. And some judge his work more hermetic and pedantic than deep, more boring than enigmatic.
Because the artist with his gaze hidden by dark glasses, cigar in his mouth, does not act like the others, does not ride like the others and maintains a special relationship with the actors and actresses he does not spare.
A born provocateur, Godard was also an important but unclassifiable figure for the left. “The anarchist Swiss”, in the words of the organizers of the Cannes Film Festival, which he helped to have canceled in May 1968, was at the same time “the most stupid pro-Chinese Swiss” for the Situationists.
During this period, he embarked on a militant cinema with 3-minute leaflet films, denying his past production. Wanting “to make political cinema politically”, he abandoned the notion of author.
Subsequently, the director with a pro-Palestinian commitment, sometimes accused of anti-Semitism , will produce with his last partner Anne-Marie Miéville, “Ici et Ailleurs”, a film in which he compares the Jews to the Nazis, which causes scandal.
He will also anger Pope John Paul II with ” Hail Mary” and her nude Virgin on screen.
In 2018, the Cannes Film Festival awarded her a “special” Palme d'Or for “Le Livre d'image”, a prize that he had of course not come to seek, any more than his Jury Prize in 2014 for “Farewell to Language”.
Famous for his aphorisms and jokes, the man-cinema had his lifetime suggested his epitaph: “Jean-Luc Godard, on the contrary”.