Franco-Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard died at the age of 91, something that the entire film industry globally has been mourning over.
Critics have rated him among the top 10 directors of all time, and he has had a direct influence on the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and even Wong-kar wai, especially on the latter’s film “Chungking Express”. But who was he? A critic, Brent Dunham described him saying, “While Hollywood spent decades trying to perfect ‘invisible filmmaking’, Jean-Luc Godard made it his personal mission to blow it all up.”
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, as French people came out of the shadows of the war and got exposed to the wide range of cinema from Hollywood, the youthful and rebellious spirit inspired a bunch of first time filmmakers to try something new. They together, paved the way for the French New Wave (La Nouvelle Vague).
This was during the heday of existential philosophy, which explains Godard’s fascination of incorporating some of those ideas into conversations of his characters. Godard’s interest in films at first was purely as a critic. He wrote for a famous publication, “Cahiers du Cinéma“, and soon developed a new take on filmmaking himself, using lightweight equipment, natural lighting, long takes, sometimes even with improvised dialogue. The established rules of filmmaking and narrative continuity fell right to the cutting room floor.
The timeless and transcending experience of charismatic actors taking us someplace else, is a part of the special allure of movies. With his first film, “Breathless”, which was inspired by Hollywood, Godard echoes this experience through his protagonist. That’s the reason why he’s known as the ‘godfather’ of French New Wave. Discovering his work remains an essential process, precisely in order to know how this very influence made its way back all the way to the West.