Godard: Pro-Palestine movie avant-garde leaves redefined cinema legacy
Jean-Luc Godard, the cinematic trailblazer, dies at the age of 91, leaving behind his mark on the way filmmaking is fashioned, in a revolutionary and image-breaking frame.
French-Swiss director and a key figure in the Nouvelle Vague (the film-making movement that revolutionized cinema in the late 1950s and 60s), Jean-Luc Godard, has died aged 91, French newspaper Libération reported.
Famous for his non-conformist image intertwined with his talent for improvised filming techniques, Godard rose to the limelight with his series of politicized films in the 1960s, before enjoying an unlikely career revival with films such as Film Socialisme and Goodbye to Language, which incorporated the developing digital technology at the time.
Upon the spread of the news of his death, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted, “We’ve lost a national treasure, the eye of a genius”, symbolizing Godard as a “master” of cinema – “the most iconoclastic of the Nouvelle Vague."
“He was like an apparition in French cinema. Then he became a master of it. #JeanLucGodard, the most iconoclastic of the New Wave film-makers, invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art. We’ve lost a national treasure with a genius's eye.”— French Embassy UK🇫🇷🇪🇺 (@FranceintheUK) September 13, 2022
- French President https://t.co/wehREKoGmL
Last Night in Soho director and filmmaker Edgar Wright called him “one of the most influential, iconoclastic film-makers of them all."
RIP Jean-Luc Godard, one of the most influential, iconoclastic film-makers of them all. It was ironic that he himself revered the Hollywood studio film-making system, as perhaps no other director inspired as many people to just pick up a camera and start shooting... pic.twitter.com/KFOnnQ1H6n— edgarwright (@edgarwright) September 13, 2022
A New Wave pioneer
Paris-born Godard grew up and went to school in Switzerland, and after moving back to Paris in 1949, the filmmaking marvel found his home in the sophisticated scene of “cine-clubs” that flourished in the French capital after the war and became the vessel of the French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague).
His name later shined further by writing for new film magazines, after having met critics André Bazin and future fellow directors François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and Jacques Rivette.
Godard paved his own path into film-making by a series of short films, such as his 1957 piece, All the Boys Are Named Patrick, which prefigured his loose laid-back film-making style. Fast-forward to the 1960s where Godard leaves an even bigger mark to his name with his film, Le Petit Soldat, which was banned by the French government for condoning torture but was the reason Godard met his future wife, Anna Karina and led to the coining of his famous principle: “Cinema is truth at 24 frames a second.”
His last feature with Karina was Made in the USA, a homage to American pulp fiction that ran into copyright trouble in the US, and the filmmaker had already delved into revolutionary politics of the time, with his film-making collective named after Dziga Vertov, the Soviet director of Man with a Movie Camera, which contributed to shutting down the Cannes film festival in 1968 in sympathy with the student riots in Paris marking the clash of culture and politics.
One of Godard's masterpieces, a 1967 observation into student radicals, La Chinoise, in which he integrated his pro-Mao and leftist stance, led him to meet his second ex-wife Anne Wiazemsky, but as the 70s came along, Godard’s political and intellectual stances began to lose their power, until his 1987 film King Lear introduced a post-apocalyptic farce featuring a gangster called Learo, financed by action specialists Cannon Films.
The 2000s not only marked his glorious return to the spotlight in cinema but observed a series of cinematic victories, after his 2001 feature In Praise of Love was selected for the Cannes film festival, followed by the release of Film Socialisme in 2010 acquiring an honorary Oscar as the citation read, “For passion. For confrontation. For a new kind of cinema”. His 2014 film Goodbye to Language won a major film-making award, the jury prize at Cannes, and his 2018 film Image Book scored the Special Palme d’Or after being selected at the Cannes film festival once again.
Anti-Zionist, Pro-Palestinian artist
Godard took a big win when he joined dozens of other film-industry professionals from France who boycotted an event intended to "celebrate" Israeli cinema. An avowed Marxist who has fought identifying with anti-Semitism added his name to a petition which planned for a boycott of the France-"Israel" Season event by the Institut Francais. “Posing as an event for cultural exchange,” the petition read. “This effort is meant to boost Israeli reparation, tarnished by its increasingly hard-handed policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians.”
The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism on Tuesday accused the cosignatories of “trying to discriminate against the only Jewish democratic state” while “staying blind, deaf, and mute when it comes to Palestinian anti-Semitic culture in which theaters, cinemas, and music are used to propagate this hatred in schools” in the West Bank and Gaza.
In addition to Godard, the petition also was signed by Eyal Sivan, an "Israel"-born director who in 2001 said Jews in France were paying the price for “the colonial and murderous situation that has prevailed for more than fifty years in Israel-Palestine," adding that “Zionism runs France.”
Godard faced anti-Semitism accusations in France merely for being anti-Zionist, which he has maintained for so long. His 1970 film Until Victory which depicts the “Palestinian struggle for independence" was never completed and features alternating images of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and Adolf Hitler.
Richard Brody's 2008 biography of Godard described that “Godard’s obsession with living history … has brought with it a troubling set of idees fixes (biases or irrational conceptions), notably regarding Jews and the United States.”