Revolutionary French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard dead at age 91

An iconic French filmmaker, Jean-Luc Godard, who helped radically change cinema in the 1960s, died on Tuesday at the age of 91, the Associated Press reported.

Godard was said to have died peacefully while surrounded by family and friends at his home on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, according to a statement from his family.

Assisted suicide

The Guardian reported that Godard passed by way of assisted suicide, which is legal in Switzerland, per the family statement, and that was confirmed by the director’s legal counsel, Patrick Jeanneret, in a statement to French media.

Jeanneret said that Godard “had recourse to legal assistance in Switzerland for a voluntary departure” and chose that method of death because he was “stricken with ‘multiple incapacitating illnesses.'”

However, an unnamed source said to be close to the family revealed to another French outlet that Godard “was not sick, he was simply exhausted. So he had made the decision to end it. It was his decision and it was important for him that it be known.”

A revolutionary filmmaker in style and politics

The AP reported that Godard was born into a wealthy family in Paris in 1930, though he grew up in Switzerland, and it was there in the wake of World War II that he embraced his love of cinema and launched a career that revolutionized the way films were made, particularly with his first big hit “Breathless” in 1960.

Among the “New Wave” changes he made that influenced not only filmmakers of his era but also many who came after him was the use of jump-cuts between scenes and narratives as well as what was, at that time, unorthodox camera angles and the use of sound.

“There’s a bit of Godard in nearly all films today,” Frederic Maire, president of the Swiss Cinematheque, told the AP. “Nearly all directors who have gone to film school today, or learned movie-making at cinematheques, have seen Godard’s films — and were amazed, jolted, and shocked by his way of telling stories.”

In addition to his unconventional filmmaking style, Godard was also a highly political far-left radical who was devoted to Marxist socialism and who injected his partisan viewpoints into many of the films that he directed over the decades.

That leftist political bent caused controversy at times and even resulted in some of his films being formally denounced by authorities or even banned by certain governments.

Godard a “national treasure” with the “vision of a genius”

Nevertheless, in spite of the controversy, or perhaps even because of it, Godard was elevated to legendary status in the realm of cinema, according to the BBC, and tributes to his honor have been made by those he influenced as well as those that he entertained with his movies, shorts, and documentaries.

French President Emmanuel Macron was among them, and said in a tweet, “He was like an apparition in French cinema. Then he became a master of it. Jean-Luc Godard, the most iconoclastic of New Wave filmmakers, invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art. We have lost a national treasure, a man who had the vision of a genius.”