Death of Jean-Luc Godard, director of Breathless and co-founder of the New Wave

Franco-Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard died on September 13 at the age of 91, Liberation announced. Co-founder of the New Wave film movement, he was the author of “A bout de souffle”, “Pierrot le fou”, “Alphaville” or “Le Mépris”.

Director of Breathless and Pierrot le Fou, Jean-Luc Godard had won an honorary Oscar, two honorary Caesars, a Golden Bear and a Silver Bear in Berlin, a Golden Lion in Venice and in 2018 a special Palme d’or. His death at the age of 91 was announced by Release this Tuesday, September 13.

The Notebooks of the Cinema

Jean-Luc Godard was born into a middle-class Franco-Swiss family. During the Second World War, he became a naturalized Swiss. He began his studies in Lyon before returning to Paris in 1949 where he obtained a master’s degree in Ethnology at the Sorbonne. It was at this time that he met François Truffaut, Jacques Rivette and Eric Rohmer. With the last two, he founds The cinema gazettethen becomes critical at Arts and to Cinema notebooks.

The new wave

In 1954, he took his first steps behind the camera with his short film Operation concrete. It was not until 1959 that he made his first feature film, Breathlessa big critical and public success, which will be the flagship film of the New Wave.

This is the start of a series of films in which Godard thinks about cinema by reinventing the narrative form: A woman is a woman, Le Petit Soldat (censored because it openly addressed the Algerian War, a taboo subject at the time) , The Carabinieri, Contempt, Pierrot le fou, Alphaville, a strange adventure of Lemmy Caution and Masculin-Feminin. He also participates in collective films: Les plus belles scroqueries du monde and Paris vu par….


May 68: Godard is an active militant and his cinema becomes a means of fighting against the system (La Chinoise, Week-End). He advocates an idealist cinema that would allow the proletariat to obtain the means of production and distribution.

He then went abroad (New York, Canada, Cuba, Italy, Prague) where he began films that he would not finish or that he would refuse to see broadcast (One American Movie, Communication(s), British Sounds , Lotte in Italy). The 1970s were those of video experimentation: Number two, Here and elsewhere, Jean-Luc six times two – over and under communication.

Scandal and stars

In 1980, he returned to a more mainstream cinema which attracted renowned actors. He found himself selected at the Cannes Film Festival three times, for Sauve qui peut la vie (1980, with Isabelle Huppert and Jacques Dutronc), Passion (1982) and Detective (1985 with Johnny Hallyday), and won the Golden Lion at the Festival. of Venice for First Name Carmen (which reveals Maruschka Detmers). But his films continue to cause scandal: Hail Mary is censored in France and around the world.


Godard returned to experimentation in the 90s: JLG/JLG, For Ever Mozart, Histoire(s) du cinema (a filmed and personal vision of the history of cinema) and Eloge de l’amour, presented in competition on the Croisette in 2001.

The filmmaker returned there three years later with Notre musique, a triptych on Hell, Purgatory and Paradise presented in the official Out-of-competition selection. This is Godard’s eighth visit to Cannes.

At the start of the 21st century, he appeared in two films in which he played himself (Le Fantôme d’Henri Langlois by Jacques Richard (II) and Morceaux de conversations avec Jean-Luc Godard by Alain Fleischer), before making people talk about him on the Croisette with his Film Socialisme, selected in the Un certain regard 2010 section.

3D test and late Cannes consecration

Aged over eighty, the filmmaker is rare in the cinematographic landscape, but much less in the aisles of the Cannes Film Festival. He directed “3-Désastres”, one of the three segments of the enigmatic 3x3D (2012), which scrutinizes the perception of 3D, presented at the end of the 52nd Semaine de la Critique at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Thirteen years after Eloge de l’amour, Jean-Luc Godard made his big comeback in Cannes competition in 2014 with Adieu au Langage, his sixth film to compete for the Palme d’Or. He won the Jury Prize ex-aequo with Mommy by Xavier Dolan.

In 2018, he presented Le livre d’image at Cannes and gave a press conference without leaving his native Switzerland, using Facetime technology. His film won a Special Palme d’or, a first in the history of the festival.

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Death of Jean-Luc Godard, director of Breathless and co-founder of the New Wave