Jean-Luc Godard, a leading figure of the French New Wave has died, the French newspaper Liberation has reported. He was 91.
Best known for his radical and politically driven work, Godard was among the most acclaimed directors of his generation with classic films such as Breathless (À bout de souffle), which catapulted him onto the world scene in 1960. The film was from a treatment by his contemporary and former friend François Truffaut and followed the story of a young American woman in Paris, played by Hollywood star Jean Seberg, and her doomed affair with a young rebel on the run, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo.
Born in Paris in 1930, Godard grew up and went to school in Nyon, on the banks of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. After moving back to Paris after finishing school in 1949, Godard found a natural habitat in the intellectual “cine-clubs” that flourished in the French capital after the war, and proved the crucible of the French New Wave.
Having met the likes of critic André Bazin and future fellow directors François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Jacques Rivette, Godard began writing for the new film magazines, including Bazin’s soon-to-be-influential Cahiers du Cinema. Godard struck a maverick note from the start, defending traditional Hollywood film-making and promoting the likes of Howard Hawks and Otto Preminger over more fashionable figures. Godard also had a reverence for Humphrey Bogart, something that would come out in his first feature, Breathless, which he released in 1960.
Photo: Jean-Luc Godard. Photograph: GAETAN BALLY/Keystone/Corbis