Franco-Swiss movie director Jean-Luc Godard dies aged 91

© Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Enigmatic Swiss film director Jean-Luc Godard, creator of such movies as À Bout de souffle (Breathless) and Adieu au Langage (Goodbye to Language), has passed away at the age of 91.

This content was published on September 13, 2022

The co-founder of the Nouvelle Vague film movement is celebrated as a groundbreaking artist who constantly stretched the boundaries of movie making. He constantly experimented with new forms of narration and use of jump cuts.

The Swiss interior minister, Alain Berset, tweeted a tribute to the director, saying: "Switzerland has lost one of its greatest filmmakers. His works have inspired generations of directors around the world, his immense legacy and influence will go down in history."

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During a prolific career, Godard shot around 150 films and videos and remained active right up until his death. The critically acclaimed À Bout de souffle was filmed in 1959 and screened in 1960 and he more recently won a special Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2018 for his work Livre d’image (The Image Book).

In 2010, the director was awarded an honorary Oscar but declined an invitation to pick it up in person during the ceremony in Hollywood. He also drew controversy for his critical views on Israeli politics, which brought accusations of antisemitism from some quarters.

Godard was born into a wealthy Parisian family of Swiss origin on December 3, 1930. He spent his childhood in Nyon, overlooking Lake Geneva in western Switzerland. After studying ethnology in Paris, he planned to become a writer, then a painter before turning to the cinema. He became a Swiss citizen in 1953.

Other notable films from the director include Le Mépris (Contempt, 1963), Alphaville (1965), Pierrot le Fou (Pierrot the Madman, 1965), La Chinoise (1967), King Lear (1987) and the eight episodes of Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-1998).

His muses included Anna Karina and Anne Wiazemsky, both of whom he married. He has lived with Swiss filmmaker Anne-Marie Miéville in Rolle, on the shore of lake Geneva in western Switzerland, since 1977.

Godard died peacefully on Tuesday, September 13, “surrounded by his loved ones” in Rolle, his widow announced.

Some media have reported that Godard died by assisted suicide, which is legal in Switzerland.

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