A former film critic who wrote for the legendary Cahiers du Cinéma during its heyday of the 1950s, Godard burst onto the scene in 1960 with his debut Breathless, which won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. The Paris-set crime caper, starring Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo, heralded the arrival of cinematic modernism. Using jump cuts, nods to the camera and other meta-fictional devices, it commented on the story as it was unfolding.
Goddard’s career would go on to span half a century, with the filmmaker directing upwards of 70 projects including features, documentaries, shorts and TV. His work was known at various times throughout his long career for everything from its pop-art homages and historical montage to overt politicalness and experimentation with fragmented narratives.
Other influential works included Le Petit Soldat, A Woman Is a Woman, Contempt, Band of Outsiders, One + One, King Lear and For Ever Mozart, among many more. Some of his more recent projects would include 2010’s Film Socialisme and 2014’s Goodbye to Language, which would go on to win a Jury Prize and a Special Palme d’Or, respectively, at the Cannes Film Festival. He would also receive an honorary Oscar in 2010.
Writer-director Edgar Wright of Last Night in Soho and Baby Driver in a tweet called Godard “one of the most influential, iconoclastic” filmmakers ever. “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.”
Award-winning actor Antonio Banderas thanked the filmmaker in a tweet for “expanding the boundaries of cinema” while actor, director and comedian Stephen Fry remembered Godard’s work on Breathless as a film “that still leaps off the screen like few movies.”
Amy and 2073 helmer Asif Kapadia declared “The King is Dead” in his Twitter remembrance as Doctor Strange and The Black Phone director Scott Derrickson tweeted: “He changed the form of cinema like Bob Dylan changed the form of music.”
Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, honored the late icon of the French New Wave in a statement Tuesday, tweeting, “Jean-Luc Godard appeared as if by magic in the world of French cinema – and became a master of it. As the most revolutionary filmmaker of the New Wave, he invented a truly modern and intensely free art. We have lost a national treasure and the eye of a genius.”
In his own Twitter statement, Toronto Film Fest CEO Cameron Bailey said, “Jean-Luc Godard might have despised posthumous praise but here we are. His staggering body of work over seven decades showed him to be a rare, true genius in cinema. It was playful and punishing. It challenged every viewer, and rewarded the persistent. Most of all, Godard was merciless in his pursuit of what (and how) images mean. For his every confrontation that expanded our art form, we will be forever in his debt.”
The Berlin International Film Festival directors Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian shared in a statement that “with films like À bout de souffle, Le Mépris and Pierrot le fou, Godard shaped cinema in the sixties, and has since then consistently renewed cinema and expanded the visual experience. To this day, Jean-Luc Godard inspires filmmakers worldwide.”
BAFTA shared that it was “saddened” to learn of Godard’s passing while StudioCanalU.K. lauded the director as “imaginative, pioneering and revolutionary” and the BFI celebrated Godard on social media, writing: “Adieu to a giant of cinema who ripped up the rule book”
The Cannes Film Festival noted on Twitter that Godard first appeared at the French fest in 1962 in Agnes Varda’s Cleo From 5 to 7 and that 21 of his films screened in Cannes.
Read more tributes below.