French-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard – a key figure in the Nouvelle Vague, the filmmaking movement that revolutionized cinema in the late 1950s and 60s – has died aged 91, French media is reporting.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted a tribute to the director on Tuesday, writing the country has lost a “national treasure.”
“It was like an apparition in French cinema,” Macron tweeted. “Then he became one of its masters. Jean-Luc Godard, the most iconoclastic of New Wave directors, had invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art. We lose a national treasure, a genius outlook.”
Born December 3, 1930 in Paris, France, to a doctor and a daughter of a Swiss investment bank founder, Godard hailed from a wealthy family, according to Reuters.
While studying a degree in ethnology at the University of Paris, his foray into filmmaking began with the short movie “Opération Béton” (“Operation Concrete”) in 1954.
Godard’s first feature film, “À bout de souffle” (“Breathless”) in 1960, was a celebration of the nonchalant improvisational cinematography that became synonymous with his style.
In the years that followed, his films revolved around complex issues such as fickleness, indignity and caprice.
Among his notable later works were his “trilogy of the sublime,” which consisted of three films that explored femininity, nature and religion – 1982’s “Passion,” the following year’s “Prénom Carmen” (“First Name: Carmen”) and “Je vous salue, Marie” (“Hail Mary”) in 1985.
Danish-French actress Anna Karina, who starred in multiple works and was also married to the director for a short time, said working with Godard often meant they didn’t have a script and had to learn the dialogue just before shooting.
Much like his filmography, Godard had an idiosyncratic, rebellious streak. At the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, he appeared at a press conference via video chat instead of physically attending.
During his long career, he was awarded an honorary César in 1987 and 1998, and received an honorary Academy Award in 2010.
Many tributes have been posted on social media by members of the movie industry.
In a tweet, actor Antonio Banderas thanked Godard for “expanding the boundaries of the cinema.”
Edgar Wright, the director known for “Baby Driver” and “Hot Fuzz,” called him “one of the most influential, iconoclastic film-makers of them all.”
Wright tweeted: “It was ironic that he himself 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.”
French newspaper Liberation was the first to report Godard’s death.