Jean-Luc Godard dies at 91


With a cigar in his mouth and a rebellious spirit, Jean-Luc Godard marked generations of film buffs with his cult films such as « A bout de souffle » or « Le contempt », his formal innovations which made him a figure of the New Wave and his Provocation.

“I only want to talk about cinema. Why talk about anything else? With the cinema, we talk about everything, we get to everything”, said with his drawling accent the Franco-Swiss, who “has messed up the cinema”, according to François Truffaut, his accomplice, for a time, of the New Wave. .

« JLG », who has shot around fifty feature films since the beginning of the 1960s – to which are added dozens of short or video formats, was a figure both familiar and enigmatic, like his films.

One of the most studied filmmakers in the world, he has been honored with a César and an Oscar for his career, as well as a special Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2018.

The films of the man with the tortoiseshell glasses stood out with their original, nervous editing, a very personal use of literary quotations, or their provocative spirit.

“JLG” has always divided critics and the public: for some, he is a genius, for others a filmmaker with hermetic work.

He knew how to occupy the field of film theory like no other, delivering his precepts: “When you go to the cinema, you raise your head. When we watch television, we lower it” or “cinema is not immune to time. It is sheltered from time”.

« Star of his generation »

« We have lost the measure of what he represented in the imagination of the Western world in the 60s and 70s. He was the star of his generation », underlined the former director of Cahiers du cinema Jean-Michel Frodo.

Born in Paris on December 3, 1930 to a doctor father and a mother from a wealthy Protestant family, he grew up in Switzerland in a refined environment.

He likes sport, hardly obtains the baccalaureate in Lausanne. His parents divorced, his mother died in 1954. Tough years, bohemian life. Jean-Luc, a kleptomaniac, is banished from his family.

Enrolled at the Sorbonne to study ethnology, he preferred to attend film clubs. At the Cahiers du cinema, where he signed in the 1950s, he rubbed shoulders with creative and turbulent young people: François Truffaut, Éric Rohmer or Claude Chabrol, all opposed to « dad’s cinema ».

His first feature film, “A bout de souffle” (1960), with Belmondo, became the aesthetic manifesto of the New Wave and would be his greatest public success.

A year later, he married Anna Karina, a young Danish actress who would play in seven of his films, including « Le Petit Soldat » – about a deserter during the Algerian War, a forbidden time -, « A woman is a woman » and “Pierrot le fou” in 1965, with Jean-Paul Belmondo, one of his masterpieces.

In 1963, it was the public success of « Le contempt », in which Brigitte Bardot, naked on a bed, asked Michel Piccoli: « And my buttocks, do you like them, my buttocks?… ».

Anna, Anne and Anne-Marie

Two years later, he met Anne Wiazemsky. Then began the “Mao years”, a more radical period of his life, dominated by “La Chinoise” (1967), played by Anne whom he married.

Godard actively participates in May 68. With a bang, the descent to Cannes which will lead to the cancellation of the festival, alongside Truffaut, Claude Lelouch, Claude Berri, Jean-Pierre Léaud…

“I am talking to you about solidarity with students and workers and you are talking to me about traveling shots and close-ups! You are idiots!” he says.

He then turns didactic and leftist works, taking pro-Palestinian positions that are controversial. Anne no longer understands her cinema. They separated in 1970.

In 1971, he was the victim of a serious motorcycle accident. It was at this time that he became friends with screenwriter Anne-Marie Miéville. Of her, he will say: “there were women in my films and the woman in my life”.

In the mid-1970s, the man with « constant melancholy » who had made several suicide attempts, according to his biographer Antoine de Baecque, moved to Grenoble, where he became passionate about video.

In 1977, the couple put down their suitcases in Switzerland, in Rolle.

After spending some time on video, he returned to fiction in the 1980s with « Sauve qui peut (la vie) », with Isabelle Huppert and Jacques Dutronc, « Passion », « Prénom Carmen », Lion d’ or 1983 at the Venice Film Festival, or « Detective » with Johnny Hallyday and Nathalie Baye.

He comes back in spurts in the news as with his monumental « History (s) of cinema », produced from 1988 to 1998, book and films of collages and quotations.

Entering a new experimental phase, he presented in Cannes, without ever coming, « Film socialisme » in 2010, then « Adieu au langue » in 2014, an unclassifiable work in 3D rewarded by the Jury Prize, and in 2018 « Le livre d’ ‘image’, largely devoted to the Arab world, where images and voice-over quotes alternate. A « special » Palme d’Or was awarded to him for this film.


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