On the death of Jean-Luc Godard

The film director and pioneer of the French New Wave film movement Jean-Luc Godard died aged 91 on 13 September. Godard died in Switzerland by assisted suicide, which is legal there. Commentators praise Godard and his work, noting their enormous significance for the development of European cinema.

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Aargauer Zeitung (CH) /

A legend long before his death

For Godard the cinema was never a place to entertain people, but to liberate them, the Aargauer Zeitung writes:

“He countered Hollywood's desire to please, with its clear and predictable stories that so often have a happy ending with brokenness, ambivalence, abysses. And he had an enigmatic intellectuality that to this day has earned him labels like 'unwieldy' or 'inaccessible' from his opponents. ... Of course he didn't fly to Los Angeles when Hollywood awarded him an honorary Oscar in 2010. ... Long before his death Godard had already become a historical figure, a legend of the past who one day awaits rediscovery beyond cinephile circles.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Master filmmaker shattered all conventions

De Morgen comments:

“The inexhaustible urge to experiment came at a price. Godard became one of the most influential and imitated cineastes of all time, a film pioneer who showed all generations what cinema could do. At the same time, he distanced himself from normal film audiences. ... [After his first successes] cinema-goers had to watch Godard's oeuvre becoming more and more radicalised under the influence of his left-wing, anti-bourgeois, anti-American views. ... From film to film, Godard's attitude became angrier and more aggressive. What began with playful alienation effects and ironic jokes culminated in a direct attack on middle-class audiences.”

Expresso (PT) /

More important than Elizabeth II

Francisco Louça, former leader of the Portuguese left-wing party Bloco Esquerda, writes in Expresso:

“Godard shaped our time more than Elizabeth did. Godard worked, Elizabeth did not. He invented, she imitated. Godard created, Elizabeth preserved. ... Godard presented his work to the public for their judgement. She saw people as subjects who bowed. Godard pushed his limits, dared, invented. She protected traditions. ... All that counts, namely culture, or what allows us to share life, illusions, magic, nostalgia, hope and reality, that is Godard, and we will remember him. And this memory and respect for his work will be the homage that no dynastic power can ever achieve.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The value of life is subjective

In La Repubblica, philosopher Michela Marzano defends Godard's decision to resort to assisted suicide:

“One should be careful not to make judgements, and strive to understand that in end-of-life situations the so-called objective criteria no longer apply. What counts is the experience (the subjectivity) of the person who is in that situation. ... Jean-Luc Godard was 91 years old and exhausted. He wasn't ill, that's true. But he had perhaps done and achieved and lived everything a man like him wanted to do and achieve and live. And it is certainly not by forbidding him to go that one safeguards the immense value of life. ... Because the meaning of this life is exhausted when its owner feels it is time to say goodbye.”