Tributes have been pouring in for the renowned French-Swiss director and pro-Palestinian activist Jean-Luc Godard. The lifelong advocate for Palestinians who revolutionised post-war cinema in Europe, died yesterday by assisted dying, his lawyer has confirmed. He died at the age of 91.
President of France, Emmanuel Macron, led the tribute: "We've lost a national treasure, the eye of a genius. Jean-Luc Godard, the most iconoclastic of New Wave filmmakers," said Macron in a tweet.
Ce fut comme une apparition dans le cinéma français. Puis il en devint un maître. Jean-Luc Godard, le plus iconoclaste des cinéastes de la Nouvelle Vague, avait inventé un art résolument moderne, intensément libre. Nous perdons un trésor national, un regard de génie. pic.twitter.com/bQneeqp8on
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) September 13, 2022
British actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry was among many in the world of art and entertainment to pay their tribute. "Adieu, Jean-Luc Godard," said Fry on Twitter. "I watched Breathless for the umpteenth time again just two weeks ago. It still leaps off the screen like few movies. That scene between them in the hotel: how many other directors could have managed that in so small a space and made it so captivating?"
The British Film Institute called Godard a "giant of cinema who ripped up the rule book" who "tested the limits of the medium," read the BFI's statement. BFI chief executive Ben Roberts told Variety: "Jean-Luc Godard's death is a huge loss to cinema. The godfather of the French New Wave and one of the most influential and innovative filmmakers of the last century, his work has resonated with generations of film-lovers around the world. The BFI will continue to champion his work to new audiences, and celebrate his career. A special edition of Sight and Sound paying tribute to Godard will be available from Oct. 3."
The Cannes Film Festival released a retrospective of his career highlights on Twitter. "Since his first appearance at the Festival in 'Cleo de 5 à 7' in 1962, 21 films by Jean-Luc Godard have been screened in Cannes," the festival wrote on social media.
Toronto International Film Festival chief Cameron Bailey tweeted: "Jean-Luc Godard might have despised posthumous praise but here we are. His staggering body of work over seven decades showed him to be a rare, true genius in cinema. It was playful and punishing. It challenged every viewer, and rewarded the persistent."
Though tribute poured in from the world of art and entertainment not much attention was given to Godard's life as a pro-Palestine activist and a staunch critic of Israel. Unsurprisingly his criticism of the Apartheid State saw him constantly being smeared as an anti-Semite.
In 2010, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced plans to award Godard an honorary Oscar. Pro-Israel groups revolted. Calling on the Academy to rescind the Oscar, the right-wing Zionist Organisation of America called Godard a "virulent anti-Semite." Such claims of anti-Semitism were a constant throughout Godard's long life, according to Jewish Currents, which paid tribute to the late director in an article. Godard rejected the allegations by insisting that he was an "anti-Zionist" not an anti-Semite.
Godard was an outspoken pro-Palestinian activist and endorsed the boycott of Israel. He reportedly 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."
In addition to Godard, the petition was also 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."