Iconic French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, who broke cinema boundaries with his groundbreaking narrative style, died Tuesday by assisted suicide at his home in Rolle, Switzerland. He was 91.
Godard, whose works include “Breathless,” “Pierrot le Fou,” “Contempt” and “Week End,” died peacefully and surrounded by his loved ones, according to a statement released by his family.
Godard’s death came as he suffered from “multiple invalidating pathologies.”
“He could not live like you and me, so he decided with a great lucidity, as he had all his life, to say, ‘Now, it’s enough,'” Godard’s legal adviser, Patrick Jeanneret said in a phone interview with the New York Times explaining his decision for assisted suicide, which is legal in Switzerland.
Godard’s first full-feature film, “Breathless,” released in 1960, specifically encouraged more artful and realistic films during this era, though it was not the first New Wave film.
“After ‘Breathless,’ anything artistic appeared possible in the cinema. The film moved at the speed of the mind and seemed, unlike anything that preceded it, a live recording of one person thinking in real-time,” movie critic Richard Brody once wrote in a piece about Godard.
Godard’s films were often political and experimental. He often challenged social norms and traditional Hollywood cinema techniques.
In 1968, Godard, alongside his friend and French New Wave colleague Francois Truffaut, led a protest of the Cannes Film Festival amid the backdrop of civil unrest in France for worker and student rights.
“We’re talking solidarity with students and workers, and you’re talking about dolly shots and close-ups. You’re a–holes,” Godard said about the festival.
American filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, and Quentin Tarantino, among others, have listed Godard as a major influence. Film critic Roger Ebert described Godard as a “pioneer whose present work is not acceptable to present audiences.”
“We have lost a national treasure, the eye of a genius,” said French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.
Godard was born in Paris and was married twice and had no children. He was married to actress Anna Karina from 1961 to 1965. He was married to actress Anne Wiazemsky from 1967 to 1979. Both French actresses starred in his films.