French film director of the New Wave, noted for his experimental style.
Born in Paris, Godard spent his childhood in Switzerland, where his father had a wealthy medical practice. After studying ethnology at the University of Paris he began to write criticism for Cahiers du Cinéma, the main organ of the French New Wave, and to make short films. Godard's feature films of the 1960s, of which A Bout de souffle (1960; Breathless) was the first, are remarkable for their improvised dialogue, dislocated narratives, and unconventional techniques of cutting and shooting. Thematically, they deal with existentialist problems, such as the meaning of personal identity, and are much concerned with the idea of betrayal. Made cheaply, for the most part using unsophisticated equipment, they were shown outside the main distribution channels on the art-house circuit.
In the late 1960s Godard's work became didactically Marxist, such films as Le Gai savoir (1968) and Le Vent d'est (1969; Wind from the East) making even fewer concessions to mainstream taste than his earlier work. This political commitment continued in the 1970s, which saw Godard experimenting with television and video, mainly in Switzerland. At the turn of the decade he began to make more conventional narrative films, achieving some commercial success with Sauve qui peut (1980; Slow Motion). In 1985 Je vous salue Marie, a controversial updating of the Annunciation story, provoked violent protests by some Christian groups. Subsequent films, which have been as idiosyncratic as ever, include Nouvelle Vague (1990) and For Ever Mozart (1996).
Over the years Godard's influence has been profound, many of his once-revolutionary techniques having been absorbed, in less extreme forms, by commercial film makers.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Literature.