Nouvelle Vague director Jean-Luc Godard dies aged 91


French-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard who pioneered the Nouvelle Vague cinema movement with the 1959 film Breathless, has died aged 91.

Godard died “peacefully” and “surrounded by those close to him” in his home in Rolle, Switzerland, his family and producers told Agence France-Presse.

“He was a breakout star of French cinema,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet. “Then he became a master. Jean-Luc Godard, the most iconoclastic film-maker of the New Wave, invented an art that was resolutely modern and intensely free. We have lost a national treasure, the vision of a genius.”

Critics have hailed Godard as one of the great postwar film directors who during a particularly productive stretch in the 1960s produced 15 features that challenged the visual style and narrative conventions of Hollywood. Handheld cameras, jump cuts, and sometimes wandering dialogue became the trademark of Nouvelle Vague, a movement that influenced generations of filmmakers.

Godard was born in Paris in 1930, the son of a doctor and a banker’s daughter. He was raised in Nyon, Switzerland, and returned to Paris for university. He started out as a film critic in the Latin Quarter where he and a group of friends that included future cinema greats such as François Truffaut and Éric Rohmer would go see several films a day. Godard wrote for the Cahiers du Cinéma journal that helped shape the New Wave movement.

With his first film Breathless, Godard made a star of the actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, who played a criminal on the run, and furthered the career of the American actress Jean Seberg in the role of his girlfriend.

Godard and his work were often radical and tinged with political ideas pulled from Marxism and anti-imperialism in vogue on the left in the 1960s and 1970s. Later in his career, he would criticise the ever-growing role of television, saying it was an inferior art.

“Cinema is a forgetting of reality,” he told Le Monde in 2014.

He went on to make films throughout his life, and theorised and wrote about film history. In the eight-part video documentary Histoire(s) du cinéma released from 1988 to 1998, Godard created an impressionistic collage of quotes, interviews and sequences that showed his essence as a cinephile.

Godard influenced many filmmakers including Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. American director Jim Jarmusch said he had been inspired by Breathless when he made the film Stranger Than Paradise to turn the constraints of having little money into an artistic advantage.

Godard was married twice, to two actresses who appeared in his films — Anna Karina and Anne Wiazemsky — and is survived by his partner Anne-Marie Miéville.