Jean-Luc Godard

From New World Encyclopedia

Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard at Berkeley, 1968.jpg
Godard in 1968
BornDecember 03 1930(1930-12-03)
Paris, France
DiedSeptember 13 2022 (aged 91)
Rolle, Switzerland
NationalityFrench, Swiss
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter, film critic
Years active1950–2022
Spouse(s)Anna Karina
m. March 1961; div. 1965

Anne Wiazemsky
m. 1967; div. 1979

Anne-Marie Miéville
(after 1979)
Partner(s)Anne-Marie Miéville
(from 1978)
RelativesPedro Pablo Kuczynski (cousin)
Alex Kuczynski (cousin once removed)
Jean Luc Godard Signature.png

Jean-Luc Godard (UK: /ˈɡɒdɑːr/ GOD-ar, US: /ɡoʊˈdɑːr/ goh-DAR; French: [ʒɑ̃ lyk ɡɔdaʁ]; December 3, 1930 - September 13, 2022) was a Franco-Swiss film director, screenwriter, and film critic. He rose to prominence as a pioneer of the French New Wave film movement of the 1960s, alongside such filmmakers as François Truffaut, Agnès Varda, Éric Rohmer, and Jacques Demy. His most acclaimed films include Breathless (1960), Vivre sa vie (1962), Contempt (1963), Band of Outsiders (1964), Alphaville (1965), Pierrot le Fou (1965), Masculin Féminin (1966), Weekend (1967), and Goodbye to Language (2014).

His work made use of frequent homages and references to film history, and often expressed his political views; he was an avid reader of existentialism and Marxist philosophy, and in 1969 formed the Dziga Vertov Group with other radical filmmakers to promote political works. Later, his politics were less radical, and his films were about human conflict and artistic representation from a humanist perspective.

Godard was arguably the most influential French filmmaker of the post-war era. His work revolutionized the motion picture form through its experimentation with narrative, continuity, sound, and camerawork. Godard challenged many of the commonly held expectations of film, bringing his novel interpretation to life with his skillful and daring direction. His work was recognized worldwide for its innovative character, influencing many notable directors.


Early life

Jean-Luc Godard was born on December 3, 1930, in the 7th arrondissement of Paris,[1] the son of Odile (née Monod) and Paul Godard, a Swiss physician.[2] His wealthy parents came from Protestant families of Franco–Swiss descent, and his mother was the daughter of Julien Monod, a founder of the Banque Paribas, and was the great-granddaughter of theologian Adolphe Monod. On his father's side, he was a first cousin of former Prime Minister and later President of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.[3]

Four years after Jean-Luc's birth, his father moved the family to Switzerland. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Godard was in France, and returned to Switzerland with difficulty. He spent most of the war in Switzerland, although his family made clandestine trips to his grandfather's estate on the French side of Lake Geneva.

Not a frequent cinema-goer, he attributed his introduction to cinema to a reading of André Malraux's essay Outline of a Psychology of Cinema, and his reading of La Revue du cinéma, which was relaunched in 1946.[1] In 1946, he went to study at the Lycée Buffon in Paris and, through family connections, mixed with members of its cultural elite. He lodged with the writer Jean Schlumberger. Having failed his baccalaureat exam in 1948 he returned to Switzerland where studied in Lausanne and lived with his parents, whose marriage was breaking up. He spent time in Geneva also with a group that included another film fanatic, Roland Tolmatchoff, and the extreme rightist philosopher Jean Parvulesco. His elder sister Rachel encouraged him to paint, which he did, in an abstract style.

After time spent at a boarding school in Thonon to prepare for the retest, which he passed, he returned to Paris in 1949.[1] He registered for a certificate in anthropology at the University of Paris (Sorbonne), but did not attend class.[3]


Godard was married three times.

His first wife was Anna Karina (1961–1965), who starred in several of his films.[4] His relationship with Karina produced some of his most critically acclaimed films, and their relationship was widely publicized: The Independent described them as "one of the most celebrated pairings of the 1960s."[5] According to Karina, their relationship was tumultuous and Godard was abusive to her.[4] Later in life, Karina said he lived like a recluse and they no longer spoke to each other.[6]

His second marriage, from 1967 to 1979, was to Anne Wiazemsky.[7]

Beginning in 1970, he collaborated personally and professionally with Anne-Marie Miéville. They lived together in Rolle, Switzerland, from 1978 onwards. Godard married Miéville about ten years before his death, according to Patrick Jeanneret, an adviser to Godard.[8]


Godard died on September 13, 2022, at the age of 91, at his home in Rolle. His death was reported as an assisted suicide procedure, which is legal in Switzerland.[9] A family member said that "He was not sick, he was simply exhausted." The director’s longtime legal advisor Patrick Jeannere confirmed that Godard suffered from “multiple disabling pathologies" and decided ‘Now, it’s enough’.” [10] Miéville was at his side when he died. His body was cremated and there was no funeral service.[11]

Early career (1950–1959)

Film criticism

In Paris, in the Latin Quarter just prior to 1950, ciné-clubs (film societies) were gaining prominence. Godard began attending these clubs—the Cinémathèque Française, Ciné-Club du Quartier Latin (CCQL), Work and Culture ciné club, and others—which became his regular haunts. At these clubs he met fellow film enthusiasts including Jacques Rivette, Claude Chabrol, and François Truffaut.[12] Godard was part of a generation for whom cinema took on a special importance:

In the 1950s cinema was as important as bread—but it isn't the case anymore. We thought cinema would assert itself as an instrument of knowledge, a microscope... a telescope.... At the Cinémathèque I discovered a world which nobody had spoken to me about. They'd told us about Goethe, but not Dreyer. ... We watched silent films in the era of talkies. We dreamed about film. We were like Christians in the catacombs.[13]

His foray into films began in the field of criticism. Along with Maurice Schérer (writing under the to-be-famous pseudonym Éric Rohmer) and Jacques Rivette, he founded the short-lived film journal La Gazette du cinéma, which published only five issues in 1950 before folding.[14] When Bazin co-founded the influential critical magazine Cahiers du Cinéma in 1951, Godard was the first of the younger critics from the CCQL/Cinémathèque group to be published.[1] The January 1952 issue featured his review of an American melodrama directed by Rudolph Maté, No Sad Songs for Me.[15] His "Defence and Illustration of Classical Découpage" published in September 1952, in which he attacks an earlier article by Bazin and defends the use of the shot–reverse shot technique, is one of his earliest important contributions to cinema criticism.[16] Praising Otto Preminger and "the greatest American artist—Howard Hawks", Godard raises their harsh melodramas above the more "formalistic and overtly artful films of Welles, De Sica, and Wyler which Bazin endorsed."[1]


Godard left Paris in the fall of 1952, returning to Switzerland to live with his mother in Lausanne. He became friendly with his mother's lover, Jean-Pierre Laubscher, who was a laborer on the Grande Dixence Dam. Through Laubscher he secured work himself as a construction worker at the Plaz Fleuri work site at the dam and recognized the possibility of making a documentary film about the dam. Thanks to Swiss friends who lent him a 35 mm movie camera, he was able to shoot on 35mm film. He rewrote the commentary that Laubscher had written, and gave his film a rhyming title Opération béton (Operation Concrete). The company that administered the dam bought the film and used it for publicity purposes.[1]

As he continued to work for Cahiers, he made Une femme coquette (1955), a 10-minute short, in Geneva; and in January 1956 he returned to Paris. A plan for a feature film of Goethe's Elective Affinities proved too ambitious and came to nothing. Truffaut enlisted his help to work on an idea he had for a film based on the true-crime story of a petty criminal, Michel Portail, who had shot a motorcycle policeman and whose girlfriend had turned him in to the police, but Truffaut failed to interest any producers. Another project with Truffaut, a comedy about a country girl arriving in Paris, was also abandoned.[1] He worked with Rohmer on a planned series of short films centering on the lives of two young women, Charlotte and Véronique; and in the autumn of 1957, Pierre Braunberger produced the first film in the series, All the Boys Are Called Patrick, directed by Godard from Rohmer's script. A Story of Water (1958) was created largely out of unused footage shot by Truffaut. In 1958, Godard, with a cast that included Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anne Colette, made his last short before gaining international prominence as a filmmaker, Charlotte et son Jules, a homage to Jean Cocteau. The film was shot in Godard's hotel room on the rue de Rennes and apparently reflected something of the 'romantic austerity' of Godard's own life at this time. His Swiss friend Roland Tolmatchoff noted: "In Paris he had a big Bogart poster on the wall and nothing else."[1]

In December 1958, Godard reported from the Festival of Short Films in Tours and praised the work of, and became friends with, Jacques Demy, Jacques Rozier, and Agnès Varda—he already knew Alain Resnais whose entry he praised—but Godard now wanted to make a feature film. He traveled to the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and asked Truffaut to let him use the story on which they had collaborated in 1956, about car thief Michel Portail. He sought money from producer Georges de Beauregard, whom he had met previously whilst working briefly in the publicity department of Twentieth Century Fox's Paris office, and who was also at the Festival. Beauregard could offer his expertise, but was in debt from two productions based on Pierre Loti stories; hence, financing came instead from a film distributor, René Pignières.[1]

New Wave period (1960–1967)

During his early career as a film critic for the influential magazine Cahiers du Cinéma, Godard had criticized mainstream French cinema's "Tradition of Quality," which de-emphasized innovation and experimentation.[17] In response, he and like-minded critics began to make their own films, challenging the conventions of traditional Hollywood in addition to French cinema.

Godard's most celebrated period as a director spans roughly from his first feature, Breathless (1960) for which he received global acclaim helping to establish the New Wave movement, through to Week End (1967). His work during this period focused on relatively conventional films that often referred to different aspects of film history. Although Godard's work during this time is considered groundbreaking in its own right, the period stands in contrast to that which immediately followed it, during which Godard ideologically denounced much of cinema's history as bourgeois and therefore without merit.


From the beginning of his career, Godard included more film references in his movies than any of his New Wave colleagues. For example, in Breathless, his citations include a movie poster showing Humphrey Bogart—from The Harder They Fall, his last film[1]—visual quotations from films of Ingmar Bergman, Samuel Fuller, Fritz Lang, and others; and an onscreen dedication to Monogram Pictures.[18]


Godard's Breathless (À bout de souffle, 1960), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, distinctly expressed the French New Wave's style, and incorporated quotations from several elements of popular culture—specifically American film noir. The film employed various techniques such as the innovative use of jump cuts (which were traditionally considered amateurish), character asides, and breaking the eyeline match in continuity editing.[1] Another unique aspect of Breathless was the spontaneous writing of the script on the day of shooting—a technique that the actors found unsettling—which contributed to the spontaneous, documentary-like ambience of the film.[19]

Godard wanted Breathless to be shot like a documentary, with a lightweight handheld camera and a minimum of added lighting; Coutard had experience as a documentary cameraman while working for the French army's information service in Indochina during the French-Indochina War. Tracking shots were filmed by Coutard from a wheelchair pushed by Godard. Though Godard had prepared a traditional screenplay, he dispensed with it and wrote the dialogue day by day as the production went ahead.[1] The film's importance was recognized immediately, and in January 1960 Godard won the Jean Vigo Prize, awarded "to encourage an auteur of the future." One reviewer mentioned Alexandre Astruc's prophecy of the age of the caméra-stylo, the camera that a new generation would use with the efficacy with which a writer uses his pen—"here is in fact the first work authentically written with a caméra-stylo."[1]

Anna Karina, having rejected a role in Breathless, appeared in the next film shot by Godard, Le petit soldat (The Little Soldier), which concerned France's war in Algeria.

Early work with Anna Karina

In 1960 Godard shot Le petit soldat (The Little Soldier). The cast included Godard's future wife Anna Karina as well as Jean-Paul Belmondo. At this time Karina had virtually no experience as an actress and Godard used her awkwardness as an element of her performance. The movie dealt with the Algerian War of Independence, and was banned by the French government for the two years due to its political nature.[20] The 'little soldier,' Bruno Forestier, was a character close to Godard himself, an image-maker and intellectual, 'more or less my spokesman, but not totally' Godard told an interviewer.[1] In making Le petit soldat, Godard took the unusual step of writing dialogue every day and calling the lines to the actors during filming – a technique made possible by filming without direct sound and dubbing dialogue in post-production.[1]

Karina appeared again, along with Belmondo, in Godard's first color film, A Woman Is a Woman (1961). The film was intended as a homage to the American musical film. Adjustments that Godard made to the original version of the story gave it autobiographical resonances, "specifically in regard to his relationship with Anna Karina." The film revealed "the confinement within the four walls of domestic life" and "the emotional and artistic fault lines that threatened their relationship."[1]

Godard's next film, Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live, 1962), was one of his most popular among critics. Karina starred as Nana, an errant mother and aspiring actress whose financially strained circumstances lead her to the life of a streetwalker. It is an episodic account of her rationalizations to prove she is free, even though she is tethered at the end of her pimp's short leash. In one scene, within a café, she spreads her arms out and announces she is free to raise or lower them as she wishes. The film was a popular success and led to Columbia Pictures giving him a deal where he would be provided with $100,000 to make a movie, with complete artistic control.[21]

Movies released in 1963

Le petit soldat was not released until 1963, the first of three films he released that year.

His next film released was Les Carabiniers. The film follows two peasants who join the army of a king, only to find the cause futile as the king reveals the deception of war-administrating leaders. It was based on a story by Roberto Rossellini, one of Godard's influences.[22]

His final film of 1963 and the most commercially successful film of his career was Le Mépris (Contempt), starring Michel Piccoli and one of France's biggest female stars, Brigitte Bardot.[23] The film follows Paul (Piccoli), a screenwriter who is commissioned by Prokosch (Jack Palance), an arrogant American movie producer, to rewrite the script for an adaptation of Homer's Odyssey, being filmed by the Austrian director Fritz Lang. Lang was asked and agreed to play himself in the film:

Fritz Lang accepted because he admired Godard's work as a director, and agreed to act in the film, but to act only, and not interfere with Godard's creative process as a filmmaker.[24]

Lang's 'high culture' interpretation of the story is lost on Prokosch, whose character is a firm indictment of the commercial motion picture hierarchy:

1963's Le Mépris (Contempt) does little to hide what Director/Screenwriter Jean-Luc Godard thinks of Hollywood. On the surface Le Mépris presents an imploding marriage, but beneath the surface it is a contemptuous allegory of the commercialization and destruction of cinema as an art form.[25]

Anouchka Films

In 1964, Godard and Karina formed Anouchka Films, a production company.[26] The first film was Bande à part (Band of Outsiders), another collaboration between the two, and described by Godard as "Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka."[27] It follows two young men, looking to score on a heist, who both fall in love with Karina, and quotes from several gangster film conventions.[27]

Une femme mariée (A Married Woman) followed that same year. The film was a slow, deliberate, toned-down black-and-white picture without a real story. It showed Godard's "engagement with the most advanced thinking of the day, as expressed in the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Roland Barthes" and its fragmentation and abstraction reflected also "his loss of faith in the familiar Hollywood styles."[1]

In 1965, Godard directed Alphaville, a futuristic blend of science fiction, film noir, and satire.[28]

In February 1964, while filming Bande à part, Godard announced that he had plans to adapt Lionel White's recent crime novel Obsession, which became Pierrot le Fou (1965). Godard solicited the participation of Jean-Paul Belmondo, by then a famous actor, in order to guarantee the necessary funding for the expensive film.[3] He said the film was "connected with the violence and loneliness that lie so close to happiness today. It's very much a film about France."[29] Gilles Jacob, an author, critic, and president of the Cannes Film Festival, called it both a "retrospective" and "recapitulation" of characters and themes present in some of the filmmaker's early movies; like Breathless in reverse.[30]

Masculin Féminin (1966), based on two Guy de Maupassant stories, La Femme de Paul and Le Signe, was a study of contemporary French youth and their involvement with cultural politics. It was followed by Made in U.S.A (1966), the source material for which was Richard Stark's The Jugger, and starred Anna Karina as the anti-hero. A year later came Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967), in which Marina Vlady portrays a woman leading a double life as housewife and prostitute, considered to be "among the greatest achievements in filmmaking."[31]

La Chinoise (1967) saw Godard at his most politically forthright so far. The film focused on a group of students and engaged with the ideas coming out of the student activist groups in contemporary France. Released just before the May 1968 events, the film is thought by some to have foreshadowed the student rebellions that took place.[32]

Week End

Also in 1967, Godard made a more colorful and political film, Week End. It follows a Parisian couple as they leave on a weekend trip across the French countryside to collect an inheritance. What ensues is a confrontation with the tragic flaws of the over-consuming bourgeoisie. The film contains an eight-minute tracking shot of the couple stuck in an unremitting traffic jam as they leave the city, cited as a technique Godard used to deconstruct bourgeois trends. Week End's enigmatic and audacious end title sequence, which reads "End of Cinema," appropriately marked an end to the narrative and cinematic period in Godard's filmmaking career.[2]


Godard was known for his "highly political voice," and regularly featured political content in his films.[33] One of his earliest features, Le petit soldat, which dealt with the Algerian War of Independence, was notable for its attempt to present the complexity of the dispute; the film was perceived as equivocating and as drawing a "moral equivalence" between the French forces and the National Liberation Front.[34] Along these lines, Les Carabiniers presents a fictional war that is initially romanticized in the way its characters approach their service, but becomes an antiwar allegory, filled with black humor.[35]

Godard produced several pieces that directly address the Vietnam War. Furthermore, there are two scenes in Pierrot le fou that tackle the issue. The war is present throughout the film in mentions, allusions, and depictions in newsreel footage, and the film's style was affected by Godard's political anger at the war, upsetting his ability to draw from earlier cinematic styles.[36] Notably, he also participated in Loin du Vietnam (1967), an anti-war project consisting of seven sketches directed by Godard.

In addition to the international conflicts to which Godard sought an artistic response, he was also very concerned with the social problems in France. The earliest and best example of this is Karina's potent portrayal of a prostitute in Vivre sa vie.[37] In 1960s Paris, the political milieu was not overwhelmed by one specific movement. There was, however, a distinct post-war climate shaped by various international conflicts such as colonialism in North Africa and Southeast Asia. Godard's Marxist disposition did not become abundantly explicit until La Chinoise and Week End, but is evident in several films—namely Pierrot and Une femme mariée.


A Marxist reading is possible with most if not all of Godard's early work. A constant refrain throughout Godard's cinematic period is that of the bourgeoisie's consumerism, the commodification of daily life and activity, and man's alienation—all central features of Marx's critique of capitalism.[17] His direct interaction with Marxism does not become explicitly apparent, however, until Week End, where the name Karl Marx is cited in conjunction with figures such as Jesus Christ.

Une femme mariée is structured around Marx's concept of commodity fetishism, where individuals are considered as things. Godard was very conscious of the way he wished to portray the human being, with his efforts overtly characteristic of Marx's writings on alienation. Georges Sadoul, in his short rumination on the film, describes it as a "sociological study of the alienation of the modern woman."[38]

Revolutionary period (1968–1979)

After the New Wave, Godard's politics were less radical, and his later films are about human conflict and artistic representation "from a humanist rather than Marxist perspective."[17] His work made use of frequent homages and references to film history, and often expressed his political views.

The period which spans from May 1968 into the 1970s has been given various labels—from his "militant" period, to his "radical" period, along with terms as specific as "Maoist" and as vague as "political." In any case, the period saw Godard employ consistent revolutionary rhetoric in his films and in his public statements.[1]


Amid the upheavals of the late 1960s, Godard became passionate about "making political films politically." Though many of his films from 1968 to 1972 are feature-length films, they are low-budget and challenge the notion of what a film can be. In addition to abandoning mainstream filmmaking, Godard also tried to escape the cult of personality that had formed around him. He worked anonymously in collaboration with other filmmakers, most notably Jean-Pierre Gorin, with whom he formed the Dziga-Vertov cinema collective.

During this period Godard made films in England, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Palestine, and the U.S., as well as France. He and Gorin toured with their work, attempting to create discussion, mainly on college campuses.

In 1978 Godard was commissioned by the Mozambican government to make a short film. During this time his experience with Kodak film led him to criticize the film stock as "inherently racist" since it did not reflect the variety, nuance, or complexity in dark brown or dark skin. This was because Kodak "Shirley cards" were only made for Caucasian subjects, a problem that was not rectified until 1995.[39]


In 1972, Godard and his life partner and future wife, Swiss filmmaker, Anne-Marie Miéville started the alternative video production and distribution company Sonimage, based in Grenoble. Under Sonimage, Godard produced Comment ca va, Numéro Deux (1975), and Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980). In 1976, Godard and Miéville collaborated on a series of innovative video works for European broadcast television, titled Six fois deux/Sur et sous la communication (1976) and France/tour/détour/deux/enfants (1978). From the time that Godard returned to mainstream filmmaking in 1980, Anne-Marie Miéville remained an important collaborator.

Jean-Pierre Gorin Collaborations

After the events of May 68 events in France, when the city of Paris saw a total upheaval in response to the "authoritarian de Gaulle," and Godard's professional objective was reconsidered, he began to collaborate with like-minded individuals in the filmmaking arena. His most notable collaborator was Jean-Pierre Gorin, a Maoist student of Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Lacan, who later became a professor of Film Studies at the University of California at San Diego, with a passion for cinema that attracted Godard's attention.[1]

Between 1968 and 1973, Godard and Gorin collaborated to make a total of five films with strong Maoist messages. The most prominent film from the collaboration was Tout Va Bien (1972). The film starred Yves Montand and Jane Fonda, who was, at the time, the wife of French filmmaker Roger Vadim. Fonda was at the height of her acting career, having won an Academy Award for her performance in Klute (1971), and had gained notoriety as a left-wing anti-war activist. Owing to a motorcycle accident that severely incapacitated Godard, Gorin ended up directing this most celebrated of their work together almost single-handedly. As a companion piece to Tout va bien, the pair made Letter to Jane, a 50-minute "examination of a still" showing Jane Fonda visiting with the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. The film is a deconstruction of Western imperialist ideology. This was the last film that Godard and Gorin made together.

Dziga Vertov Group

In 1969 Godard formed the Dziga Vertov Group with other radical filmmakers to promote political works.[17] Godard had a specific interest in Dziga Vertov, a Soviet filmmaker who was known for a series of radical documentaries titled "Kino Pravda" (literally, "film truth") and the late silent-era feature film Man with a Movie Camera (1929). Vertov was also a contemporary of both Soviet montage theorists, notably Sergei Eisenstein, and Russian constructivist and avant-garde artists such as Alexander Rodchenko and Vladimir Tatlin. Part of Godard's political shift after May 1968 was towards a proactive participation in the class struggle and he drew inspiration from filmmakers associated with the Russian Revolution.[40]

Towards the end of this period of his life, Godard began to feel disappointed with his Maoist ideals and was abandoned by his wife at the time, Anne Wiazemsky. In this context, according to biographer Antoine de Baecque, Godard attempted suicide on two occasions.[41]

Accusations of Anti-Semitism

Godard was accused by some of harboring anti-Semitic views. In 2010, in the lead-up to the presentation of Godard's honorary Oscar, a prominent article in The New York Times by Michael Cieply drew attention to the idea that Godard might be an anti-Semite, and thus undeserving of the accolade. Cieply made reference to Richard Brody's book Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, and alluded to a previous, longer article published by the Jewish Journal as lying near the origin of the debate.[42] That article included a quotation from Godard on television in 1981:

Moses is my principal enemy...Moses, when he received the commandments, he saw images and translated them. Then he brought the texts, he didn't show what he had seen. That's why the Jewish people are accursed.[43]

Immediately after Cieply's article was published, Brody made a clear point of criticizing the "extremely selective and narrow use" of passages in his book, and noted that Godard's work approached the Holocaust with "the greatest moral seriousness."[44]

Godard's views were complex regarding the State of Israel. In 1970, Godard traveled to the Middle East to make a pro-Palestinian film he did not complete and whose footage eventually became part of the 1976 film Ici et ailleurs. In this film, Godard seems to view the Palestinians' cause as one of many worldwide Leftist revolutionary movements. Godard explicitly identified himself as an anti-Zionist but denied the accusations of anti-Semitism.[45]

Return to commercial films: 1980–2000

Godard returned to somewhat more traditional fiction with Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980), the first of a series of more mainstream films marked by autobiographical currents: it was followed by Passion, Lettre à Freddy Buache (both 1982), Prénom Carmen (1983), and Grandeur et décadence d'un petit commerce de cinéma (1986). There was, though, another flurry of controversy with Je vous salue, Marie (1985), which was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church for alleged heresy, and also with King Lear (1987), an essay film on William Shakespeare and language. Also completed in 1987 was a segment in the film Aria which was based loosely from the plot of Armide; it is set in a gym and uses several arias by Jean-Baptiste Lully from his famous Armide.

His later films were marked by great formal beauty and frequently a sense of requiem: Nouvelle Vague (1990), the autobiographical JLG/JLG, autoportrait de décembre (1995), and For Ever Mozart (1996). Allemagne année 90 neuf zéro (1991) which is a quasi-sequel to Alphaville, but done with an elegiac tone and focus on the inevitable decay of age. Between 1988 and 1998, he produced the multi-part series Histoire(s) du cinéma, a monumental project which combined all the innovations of his video work with a passionate engagement in the issues of twentieth-century history and the history of film itself.

Late period films: 2001–2023

In 2001, Éloge de l'amour (In Praise of Love) was released. The film is notable for its use of both film and video—the first half captured in 35 mm black and white, the latter half shot in color on DV—and subsequently transferred to film for editing. The film is also noted for containing themes of ageing, love, separation, and rediscovery as it follows the young artist Edgar in his contemplation of a new work on the four stages of love.[46]

In Notre musique (2004), Godard turned his focus to war, specifically, the war in Sarajevo, but with attention to all war, including the American Civil War, the war between the U.S. and Native Americans, and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The film is structured into three Dantean kingdoms: Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Godard's fascination with paradox is constant in the film. It opens with a long, ponderous montage of war images that occasionally lapses into the comic; Paradise is shown as a lush wooded beach patrolled by U.S. Marines.[47]

Godard's film Film Socialisme (2010) premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. It was released theatrically in France in May 2010.

In 2013, Godard released the short Les trois désastres (The Three Disasters) as part of the omnibus film 3X3D with filmmakers Peter Greenaway and Edgar Pera. It premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.[48]

His 2014 film Adieu au Langage (Goodbye to Language), shot in 3-D, revolves around a couple who cannot communicate with each other until their pet dog acts as an interpreter for them. The film makes reference to a wide range of influences such as paintings by Nicolas de Staël and the writing of William Faulkner, as well as the work of mathematician Laurent Schwartz and dramatist Bertolt Brecht—one of Godard's most important influences.[19] It was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize.[49]

In 2020, Godard told Les Inrockuptibles that his new film would be about a Yellow vest protestor, and indicated that along with archival footage "there will also be a shoot. I don't know if I will find what are called actors...I would like to film the people we see on news channels but by plunging them into a situation where documentary and fiction come together."[50]

In March 2021 at the International Film Festival of Kerala, Godard said that he was working on two new films. He suggested making a film like Chris Marker's La Jetée in order to "come back to his origin." Much of the film would be shot on 35mm, 16mm and 8mm film, but the expense of celluloid film stock and the COVID-19 pandemic stalled production. In July 2021, cinematographer and long time collaborator Fabrice Aragno said that Godard was using the delay to focus on "books, on the ideas of the film, and less in the making."

Aragno said that he did not think that either film would be Godard's last film:

I say this often that Éloge de l'amour was the beginning of his last gesture. These five, or six or seven films are connected to each other in a way, they're not just full stops. It's not just one painting.[51]

The first of the two films, a 20-minute short titled Trailer Of The Film That Will Never Exist: Phony Wars, premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, in collaboration with St. Laurent. The second, Scenario, was left unfinished at the time of Godard's death, to be finished by Aragno and Jean-Paul Battagia.


A pochoir depicting Godard on a wall in Montreal.

Godard has been recognized as one of the most influential filmmakers of the twentieth century and one of the leaders of the French New Wave. His films were widely acclaimed, influencing and inspiring many directors.[52] His work "revolutionized the motion picture form" through its experimentation with narrative, continuity, sound, and camerawork.[53]

Godard is said to have "generated one of the largest bodies of critical analysis of any filmmaker since the mid-twentieth century"; his work has been central to narrative theory and has "challenged both commercial narrative cinema norms and film criticism's vocabulary."[17] Godard's collaborations with Karina—which included such critically acclaimed films as Vivre sa vie (1962), Bande à part (1964), and Pierrot le Fou (1965)—were called "arguably the most influential body of work in the history of cinema" by Filmmaker magazine.[54]

In 1969, film critic Roger Ebert wrote about Godard's importance in cinema:

Godard is a director of the very first rank; no other director in the 1960s has had more influence on the development of the feature-length film. Like Joyce in fiction or Beckett in theater, he is a pioneer whose present work is not acceptable to present audiences. But his influence on other directors is gradually creating and educating an audience that will, perhaps in the next generation, be able to look back at his films and see that this is where their cinema began.[55]

In 2001, Ebert recalled his early days as a critic, writing "As much as we talked about Tarantino after Pulp Fiction, we talked about Godard in those days."[56]

Godard's works and innovations were praised by notable directors, including Martin Scorsese, Claire Denis, Paul Schrader, John Boorman, and many others.[57] Tarantino cited Godard as an influence; he named a production company he founded A Band Apart, a reference to Godard's 1964 film.[19]

Other directors who recognized Godard as influencing their work include Michelangelo Antonioni,[58] Satyajit Ray,[59] and Orson Welles who said of Godard:

He's the definitive influence if not really the first film artist of this last decade, and his gifts as a director are enormous. I just can't take him very seriously as a thinker – and that's where we seem to differ, because he does.[60]
What's most admirable about him is his marvelous contempt for the machinery of movies and even movies themselves—a kind of anarchistic, nihilistic contempt for the medium—which, when he's at his best and most vigorous, is very exciting.[61]

David Thomson reached a similar conclusion:

Godard's greatness rests in his grasping of the idea that films are made of moving images, of moments from films, of images projected in front of audiences ... He knows only cinema: on politics and real life he is childish and pretentious.[62]

Still, Thomson calls Godard's early films "a magnificent critical explanation of American movies" and "one of the inescapable bodies of work" and deserving of retrospectives.[62]

In 2017, Michel Hazanavicius directed a film about Godard, Redoubtable, based on the memoir One Year After (French: Un an après; 2015) by Wiazemsky.[7] It centers on his life in the late 1960s, when he and Wiazemsky made films together. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017.[63] Godard was not impressed, saying that the film was a "stupid, stupid idea."[64]

Godard received many awards for his work, including the Silver Bear for Best Director from the Berlin International Film Festival, an Academy Honorary Award, a European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Georges Delerue Award for best film score, an Honorary César Award, and a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Film Festival. In 1990, Godard was presented with a special award from the National Society of Film Critics.[65] Four of Godard's films are included on the British Film Institute (BFI) Sight and Sound magazine list of Greatest Films of All Time: Breathless, Le Mépris, Pierrot le Fou, Histoire(s) du cinéma, and Vivre sa vie.[66]

The 60th New York Film Festival which was held in 2022 paid tribute to Godard who died earlier that year. The Onion paid homage to Godard's famous saying," A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, though not necessarily in that order,"[64] with the headline "Jean-Luc Godard Dies At End of Life In Uncharacteristically Linear Narrative Choice."[67]

Collaboration with ECM Records

Godard had a lasting friendship with Manfred Eicher, founder and head of the German music label ECM Records.[68] The label released the soundtracks of Godard's Nouvelle Vague (ECM NewSeries 1600–01) and Histoire(s) du cinéma (ECM NewSeries 1706). This collaboration expanded over the years, leading to Godard's granting ECM permission to use stills from his films for album covers, while Eicher took over the musical direction of Godard films such as Allemagne 90 neuf zéro, Hélas Pour Moi, JLG, and For Ever Mozart. Tracks from ECM records have been used in his films; for example, the soundtrack for In Praise of Love uses Ketil Bjørnstad and David Darling's album Epigraphs extensively. Godard also released on the label a collection of shorts he made with Anne-Marie Miéville called Four Short Films (ECM 5001).

The ECM album covers with Godard's film stills include the following:

  • Voci, works of Luciano Berio played by Kim Kashkashian (ECM 1735)
  • Words of The Angel, by Trio Mediaeval (ECM 1753)
  • Morimur, by Christoph Poppen & The Hilliard Ensemble (ECM 1765)
  • Songs of Debussy and Mozart, by Juliane Banse & András Schiff (ECM 1772)
  • Requiem for Larissa, by Valentin Silvestrov (ECM 1778)
  • Soul of Things, by Tomasz Stanko Quartet (ECM 1788)
  • Suspended Night, by Tomasz Stanko Quartet (ECM 1868)
  • Asturiana: Songs from Spain and Argentina, by Kim Kashkashian & Robert Levin (ECM 1975)
  • Distances, by Norma Winstone, Glauco Venier & Klaus Gesing (ECM 2028)
  • Live at Birdland, by Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden & Paul Motian (ECM 2162)

Selected filmography

Feature films[69]

The list excludes multi-director anthology films to which Godard has contributed shorts.
  • 1960 Breathless
  • 1961 A Woman Is a Woman
  • 1962 My Life to Live
  • 1963 The Little Soldier
  • 1963 The Carabineers
  • 1963 Contempt
  • 1964 Band of Outsiders
  • 1964 A Married Woman
  • 1965 Alphaville
  • 1965 Pierrot le Fou
  • 1966 Masculin Féminin
  • 1966 Made in U.S.A.
  • 1967 Two or Three Things I Know About Her
  • 1967 La Chinoise
  • 1967 Week-end
  • 1969 Joy of Learning
  • 1970 Wind from the East
  • 1971 Struggle in Italy
  • 1971 Vladimir et Rosa
  • 1972 Tout va bien
  • 1975 Number Two
  • 1976/1978 How's It Going?
  • 1980 Every Man for Himself
  • 1982 Passion
  • 1983 First Name: Carmen
  • 1985 Hail Mary
  • 1985 Detective
  • 1987 King Lear
  • 1987 Keep Your Right Up
  • 1990 New Wave
  • 1991 Germany Year 90 Nine Zero
  • 1993 Oh Woe Is Me
  • 1996 For Ever Mozart
  • 2001 In Praise of Love
  • 2004 Notre musique
  • 2010 Film Socialisme
  • 2014 Goodbye to Language
  • 2018 The Image Book


  • 1968 A Film Like Any Other
  • 1968 One Plus One (Sympathy for the Devil)
  • 1969 British Sounds
  • 1972 Letter to Jane
  • 1976 Here and Elsewhere
  • 1994 JLG/JLG – Self-Portrait in December

Short films

  • 1993 The Kids Play Russian


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 Richard Brody, Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard (Faber & Faber, 2008, ISBN 978-0571212255).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Douglas Morrey, Jean-Luc Godard (Manchester University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0719067594).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Colin MacCabe, Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005, ISBN 978-0571211050).
  4. 4.0 4.1 Patricia Garcia, Anna Karina on Loving and Working With Jean-Luc Godard Vogue (May 10, 2016). Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  5. Nathalie Olah, Jean Luc Godard's muse Anna Karina on why she refused to star in 'Breatless' The Independent (February 12, 2016). Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  6. Xan Brooks, Anna Karina on love, cinema and being Jean-Luc Godard's muse: 'I didn’t want to be alive any more' The Guardian (January 21, 2016). Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sam Roberts, Anne Wiazemsky, Film Star, Wife of Godard and Author, Dies at 70 The New York Times (October 5, 2017). Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  8. Adam Bernstein, Jean-Luc Godard, rule-breaking master of French cinema, dies at 91 The Washington Post (September 13, 2022). Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  9. Andrew Pulver and Angelique Chrisafis, Jean-Luc Godard, giant of the French New Wave, dies at 91 The Guardian (September 13, 2022). Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  10. Samantha Bergeson, Hollywood Remembers Jean-Luc Godard: Filmmakers Pay Tribute to New Wave Iconoclast Indiewire (September 15, 2022). Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  11. Jean-Luc Godard died by assisted suicide, legal adviser confirms Le Monde (September 13, 2022). Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  12. Jean-Luc Godard Biography: The Black Sheep New Wave Film. Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  13. Jean-Luc Godard Biography Monsters and Critics. Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  14. Jean-Luc Godard Biography: What is Cinema? New Wave Film. Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  15. Dudley Andrew, André Bazin (Oxford University Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0199836956).
  16. Jean-Luc Godard Biography: Cahiers du Cinéma New Wave Film. Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 Barry Keith Grant (ed.), Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film (Schirmer, 2006, ISBN 978-0028657912).
  18. Charles Silver, Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless MOMA (July 2, 2013). Retrieved September 16, 2023.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Jean-Luc Godard: Nine things about the man who remade cinema BBC News (September 13, 2023). Retrieved September 16, 2023.
  20. Richard Brody, Godard's Truthful Torture Scene The New Yorker (March 6, 2013). Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  21. Eugene Archer. "France's Far Out Filmmaker" The New York Times (September 27, 1964), X11.
  22. Robert Phillip Kolker, Bernardo Bertolucci (Oxford University Press, 1985, ISBN 978-0195204926).
  23. David Mouriquand, Jean-Luc Godard: what was the French New Wave and what films are must-sees? Euronews (September 13, 2022). Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  24. Wheeler W. Dixon, The Films of Jean-Luc Godard (State University of New York Press, 1997, ISBN 978-0791432860).
  25. Paul Kell, Godard's Le Mépris: Such Sweet Contempt Life In Film & TV (July 5, 2008). Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  26. David Sterritt (ed.), Jean-Luc Godard: Interviews (University Press of Mississippi, 1998, ISBN 978-1578060818).
  27. 27.0 27.1 Ephraim Katz, The Film Encyclopedia (Crowell, 1979, ISBN 978-0690012040).
  28. Paul Meehan, The Fusion of Science Fiction and Film Noir (McFarland & Company, 2017, ISBN 1476672350).
  29. John Ardagh, "Godard—France's Brilliant Misfit" Los Angeles Times (April 17, 1966), b8.
  30. Stuart Galbraith IV, Pierrot Le Fou – Criterion Collection DVD Talk. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  31. Amy Taubin, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her: The Whole and Its Parts The Criterion Collection (July 21, 2009). Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  32. Sandy Brian Hager, Jean-Luc Godard's La Chinoise and Student Radicalism March 17, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  33. The New York Times, The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge (St. Martin's Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0312376598).
  34. Nicholas Elliott, Le petit soldat: The Awful Truth Criterion Collection (January 21, 2020). Retrieved September 20, 2023.
  35. Roger Ebert, Les Carabiniers Roger (October 29, 1968). Retrieved September 20, 2023.
  36. Richard Brody, Pierrot le fou: Self-Portrait in a Shattered Lens Criterion Collection (September 22, 2009). Retrieved September 20, 2023.
  37. Francesca Arossa, "Vivre sa Vie" – The Prostitute As A Protagonist Byarcadia (August 13, 2021). Retrieved September 20, 2023.
  38. Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films (University of California Press, 1972, ISBN 978-0520021525).
  39. Light And Dark: The Racial Biases That Remain In Photography NPR (April 16, 2014). Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  40. Dziga Vertov, Kino-eye: the writings of Dziga Vertov (University of California Press, 1985, ISBN 978-0520056305).
  41. David Fresko, Revolutionary Cinematic Suicide, Godard+Gorin: Five Films, 1968–1971 The Brooklyn Rail (June 5, 2018). Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  42. Michael Cieply, An Honorary Oscar Revives a Controversy The New York Times (November 1, 2010). Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  43. Tom Tugend, Is Jean-Luc Godard an anti-Semite? The Jewish Journal (October 6, 2010). Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  44. Richard Brody, Jean-Luc Godard: The Oscar Question The New Yorker (November 2, 2010). Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  45. Kyle Buchanan, Jean-Luc Godard Says Honorary Oscar Meant 'Nothing' to Him Vulture (November 15, 2010). Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  46. In Praise of Love Film at Lincoln Center. Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  47. Notre musique UniFrance. Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  48. 3X3D, a 3D Stereoscopic Feature from Jean-Luc Godard, Peter Greenaway, and Edgar Pera The Hollywood Reporter (May 30, 2013). Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  49. Adieu au Langage (Goodbye to Language) Festival de Cannes. Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  50. Bruno Deruisseau and Jean-Marc Lalanne, On a parlé des Gilets jaunes, de collapsologie et de psychanalyse avec Jean-Luc Godard Les Inrockuptibles (July 17, 2020). Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  51. Will Thorne, Frequent Jean-Luc Godard Collaborator Fabrice Aragno on His Feature Debut and Making Godard’s ‘Final Gesture’ Variety (July 9, 2021). Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  52. Dave Kehr and Jonathan Kandell, Jean-Luc Godard, 91, Is Dead; Bold Director Shaped French New Wave The New York Times (September 13, 2022). Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  53. Biography by AllMovie AllMovie. Retrieved September 16, 2023.
  54. Caveh Zahedi, “Be Beautiful and Shut Up”: Anna Karina on Filmmaking with Jean-Luc Godard Filmmaker Magazine (May 9, 2016). Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  55. Roger Ebert, On Jean-Luc Godard (April 30, 1969). Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  56. Roger Ebert, Vivre sa Vie / My Life to Live (April 1, 2001). Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  57. ‘Godard shattered cinema’: Martin Scorsese, Mike Leigh, Abel Ferrara, Claire Denis and more pay tribute The Guardian (September 14, 2022). Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  58. Bert Cardullo (ed.), Michelangelo Antonioni: Interviews (University Press of Mississippi, 2008, ISBN 978-1934110669).
  59. Satyajit Ray, Satyajit Ray on Cinema (Columbia University Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0231164955).
  60. David Thomson, A Light in the Dark: A History of Movie Directors (Knopf, 2021, ISBN 978-0593318157).
  61. Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich, This is Orson Welles (Da Capo Press, 1998, ISBN 978-0306808340).
  62. 62.0 62.1 David Thomson, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (Knopf, 2014, ISBN 978-0375711848).
  63. Steven Zeitchik, Cannes 2017: New movie about Jean-Luc Godard, from ‘The Artist’ director, shows auteurs can be funny too Los Angeles Times (May 28, 2017). Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  64. 64.0 64.1 H. Perry Horton, Godard on Godard Biopic: 'Stupid, Stupid Idea.' But the Show Goes On Film School Rejects (March 29, 2017). Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  65. Past Awards National Society of Film Critics. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  66. The Greatest Films of All Time British Film Institute. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  67. Jean-Luc Godard Dies At End of Life In Uncharacteristically Linear Narrative Choice The Onion (September 13, 2022). Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  68. Steve Lake and Paul Griffiths (eds.), Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM (Granta Books, 2007, ISBN 978-1862078802).
  69. Jean-Luc Godard (1930-2022) IMDb. Retrieved September 12, 2023.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Andrew, Dudley. André Bazin. Oxford University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0199836956
  • Brody, Richard. Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard. Faber & Faber, 2008. ISBN 978-0571212255
  • Cardullo, Bert (ed.). Michelangelo Antonioni: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi, 2008. ISBN 978-1934110669
  • Dixon, Wheeler W. The Films of Jean-Luc Godard. State University of New York Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0791432860
  • Grant, Barry Keith (ed.). Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film. Schirmer, 2006. ISBN 978-0028657912
  • Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. Crowell, 1979. ISBN 978-0690012040
  • Kolker, Robert Phillip. Bernardo Bertolucci. Oxford University Press, 1985. ISBN 978-0195204926
  • Lake, Steve, and Paul Griffiths (eds.). Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM. Granta Books, 2007, ISBN 978-1862078802
  • MacCabe, Colin. Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. ISBN 978-0571211050
  • Meehan, Paul. The Fusion of Science Fiction and Film Noir. McFarland & Company, 2017. ISBN 1476672350
  • Morrey, Douglas. Jean-Luc Godard. Manchester University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0719067594
  • Ray, Satyajit. Satyajit Ray on Cinema. Columbia University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0231164955
  • Sadoul, Georges. Dictionary of Films. University of California Press, 1972. ISBN 978-0520021525
  • Sterritt, David (ed.). Jean-Luc Godard: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi, 1998. ISBN 978-1578060818
  • The New York Times. The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge. St. Martin's Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0312376598
  • Thomson, David. The New Biographical Dictionary of Film. Knopf, 2014. ISBN 978-0375711848
  • Thomson, David. A Light in the Dark: A History of Movie Directors. Knopf, 2021. ISBN 978-0593318157
  • Vertov, Dziga. Kino-eye: The writings of Dziga Vertov. University of California Press, 1985. ISBN 978-0520056305
  • Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich. This is Orson Welles. Da Capo Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0306808340

External links

All links retrieved September 22, 2023.


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