Jean-Luc Godard, iconic French New Wave director, dies at 91

Jean-Luc Godard
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Jean-Luc Godard, the pioneering French-Swiss director of films like Breathless and Weekend, has died at the age of 91. A leader in the French New Wave movement, his work challenged the conventions of traditional American and French cinema and he is regarded as one of the most influential French filmmakers of the post-war period. The French newspaper Libération first reported the news on September 13. 

Godard made his feature film debut in 1960 with À bout de souffle (Breathless), a tribute to American film noir that starred Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo. He continued making both feature-length and short films until 2018, when his final project Le Livre d'image (The Image Book) was released. It was an avant-garde non-fiction film shot over two years in several Arab countries including Tunisia, and it was given a one-off 'special Palme d’Or' at Cannes. He also received an honorary Academy Award in 2010.

Born in Paris in 1930, Godard's film career began in criticism in the early '50s, writing for magazines including Cahiers du Cinema. In 1968, Godard led protests alongside fellow French New Wave director François Truffaut in solidarity with the students and worker riots in Paris that helped shut down Cannes Film Festival. His work contained prominent anti-war and Marxist politics – his film Le Petit Soldat (The Little Soldier) about the Algerian War of Independence, made in 1960, was banned in France until 1963 due to its depiction of the government. Other famous films included Contempt, Alphaville, Pierrot le Fou, and My Life to Live. 

Godard was married twice in the '60s and '70s to the actors Anna Karina and Anne Wiazemsky, and he was in a relationship with filmmaker Anne-Marie Miéville from 1978 until his death.

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