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Thursday, September 21, 2023

New Wave Film Director Jean-Luc Godard Passes Away at 91

Godard’s contribution to the cinematic space pushed boundaries and restructured social constructs, inspiring iconoclastic directors even decades after his heyday in the 1960s

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FRANCE: A leading proponent and godfather of France’s New Wave cinema, celebrated French director Jean-Luc Godard, died on Tuesday aged 91, his family and producers said.

The New Wave was a breakthrough that reshaped and revamped the perception of modern cinema. Godard’s contribution to the cinematic space pushed boundaries and restructured social constructs, inspiring iconoclastic directors even decades after his heyday in the 1960s.

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Godard, who found critical acclaim for his classics like “Breathless” and “Contempt”, broke away from social convention and helped bolster a new wave of spirit in filmmaking, with manual camera work, jump cuts and existential dialogue.

Jean-Luc Godard died peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones,” his wife Anne-Marie Mieville and producers said in a statement published by several French media. Godard will be cremated and there will be no official ceremony, they said.

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Among avid movie buffs, the name Godard is no joking matter. Highly revered in the artistic space as a master director, portraying realistic scenes of love, betrayal and existential pain, Godard became a revolutionary who inspired other movie-makers to stand on par with iconic painters and litterateurs of our time.

“A movie should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order,” Godard once said, at once applying yet defying Aristotle’s golden rule for any story or drama.

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Godard was not alone in creating France’s New Wave (Nouvelle Vague), a credit he shares with at least a dozen peers including Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer, most of them pals from the trendy, bohemian Left Bank of Paris in the late 1950s.

However, he became the unspoken representative of the movement, which spurned several other literary and cinematic offshoots in Japan, Hollywood and more improbably, in what was then Communist-led Czechoslovakia as well as in Brazil.

French President Emmanuel Macron gave his due condolences and expressed regret over the death of this larger-than-life enigma that was Godard. “Jean-Luc Godard, the most iconoclastic filmmaker of the New Wave, had invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art. We are losing a national treasure, a look of genius,” he tweeted.

Film director Edgar Wright also expressed his deep sorrow and said, “RIP Jean-Luc Godard, one of the most influential, iconoclastic filmmakers of them all.”

“It was ironic that he revered the Hollywood studio film-making system, as perhaps no other director inspired as many people to just pick up a camera and start shooting…”

A still from Wild Strawberries; Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Godard’s unconventional and eccentric method of filmmaking which dismissed traditional boundaries and constructs fared well in Hollywood as iconic filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese followed in his iconoclastic ways. Tarantino, a Godard enthusiast and 1990s movie director,  produced cult favourites like “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs”.

Meanwhile, Martin Scorsese, another Hollywood bigshot, who appeared in 1976 with the legendary production of “Taxi Driver”, broke traditional notions of filmmaking, as he navigated the psychological domain of a Vietnam veteran-turned-cabbie who stalked the debauched streets of seedy New York to clean up the society.

Although Godard amassed a large number of fans even in the industry who looked up to him for inspiration, some of his sharpest critics included the late Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, himself a trailblazer in European cinema who is perhaps best known for his 1957 films “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries”.

“I’ve never gotten anything out of (Godard’s) movies. They have felt constructed, faux intellectual and completely dead. Cinematographically uninteresting and infinitely boring,” he said once in an interview, according to his foundation’s website.

Also Read: Spanish Novelist Javier Marías Dies at Age 70


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