Jean-Luc Godard (1930-2022)

JLG receiving the 2019 FIAF Award from FIAF President Frédéric Maire in April 2019

It is with great sadness that FIAF learned of the passing of the legendary Swiss-French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, who received the 2019 FIAF Award during a special ceremony on 11 April 2019 at the Cinémathèque suisse, where the worldwide film preservation community has gathered this week on the occasion of FIAF’s 75th annual Congress. Jean-Luc Godard dedicated the Award to the memory of Iris Barry (1895-1969), the first Curator of the Museum of Modern Art Film Library in New York from 1935, and one of the founders of the FIAF.

Born in 1930 in Paris, holding dual French and Swiss citizenship, Jean-Luc Godard was one of the world’s leading film directors and one of the last living exponents of the French Nouvelle Vague. Throughout his career he experimented with new ways of telling stories and making films that have influenced many younger filmmakers. His creativity was deeply rooted in his vast knowledge of film history and his years as a film critic for Cahiers du Cinéma. He was a spiritual son of the Cinémathèque française and Henri Langlois, whom he unfailingly supported through difficult times in the aftermath of May 1968.

Most of his work relates to film history and pays tribute to its classics, as with Fritz Lang directing the movie within the movie in Le Mépris or Samuel Fuller’s cameo in Pierrot le Fou. He devoted his acclaimed Histoire(s) du cinéma series to it, as well as his latest film, 2018’s Le Livre d’image, which won a Special Palme d’Or in Cannes.

He was always greatly interested in filming techniques, from light cameras to state-of-the-art digital equipment, helping to develop new 35mm small, light cameras with Jean-Pierre Beauviala (Aaton) and experimenting with 3D (in Adieu au langage) and 7.1 sound (in Le Livre d’image). In the early 1970s he was also one of the first French filmmakers, together with Carole Roussopoulos, to explore the possibilities of the portable Sony video system.

Returning to his homeland Switzerland in the mid-seventies, living not far from Lausanne, he reconnected with the Cinémathèque suisse and its director, Freddy Buache. Some of his films from the 1980s onwards were shot in part in the premises and/or with the support of the Cinémathèque suisse. He always supported the Cinémathèque when needed, and directed the much-vaunted short film Lettre à Freddy Buache when asked to make a film about the city of Lausanne. Last but not least, he was one of the main guests at the 1979 FIAF Congress in Lausanne, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the famous Congress of Independent Film-makers of La Sarraz.

Through his work he consistently showed great interest and concern for the work, missions and goals of film archives, and for all these reasons, the FIAF community thought that he deserved to be rewarded with a FIAF Award, and the 75th FIAF Congress held in Lausanne in April 2019 proved the ideal occasion for this. The presentation ceremony can be viewed here: