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Jean-Luc Godard: 1930-2022

Was there a watershed in cinema: before and after Godard? That was certainly how it seemed during the 20 or so years after his debut in 1960. As the leading figure in France’s New Wave, his influence was felt far and wide, encouraging a generation of filmmakers to reject the styles of their elders, and instead create a new personal cinema.

Soon his influence could be seen in Eastern Europe, in Italy, in Scandinavia and even in Britain. Would Dick Lester’s two Beatles films have been as formally exciting without the example of Godard? Would Vilgot Sjöman’s once-notorious ‘I Am Curious’ films have been as boldly personal without Godard? But however widely his influence could be seen, Godard himself never stood still, challenging his admirers with each new film and setting a pace that few could match.

The revolutionary uprisings of 1968 created a watershed in Godard’s own life and career. Turning his back on the art cinema that he had reshaped, he threw himself into a period of political agitation and, even after he returned to making movies with major stars during the 1970s and ‘80s, these were never as influential as his early films.

There was also the challenge of television and working with video, which Godard embraced before most filmmakers of his generation, inaugurating a new phase in his work from ‘Sauve qui peut’/’Slow Motion’ (1980) onwards. Back in his native Switzerland, Godard became a reclusive guru, often controversial, but continuing to experiment and provoke. - Ian Christie