4. Jean-Luc Godard (1930 -)
He wasn’t the first of the French New Wave directors, but he was the most celebrated. His 1960 film Breathless heralded a new kind of moviemaking—one that was free from studio constraints and continues to permeate the very heart of independent film today.
Armed with an exhaustive knowledge of film history and a 16mm camera, Godard gave permission to later moviemakers to break the rules when it came to story, structure and process. Says Toronto Film Festival Director Piers Handling: “Godard challenged the accepted notions of how a film was constituted. His innovations included jump cuts, direct address to camera, the long take, disjunction of sound and image and an innovative use of the actor—all of which have become completely integrated in a variety of ways into contemporary film, music videos and commercials. His famous statement ‘A film should have a beginning, a middle and an end—but not necessarily in that order’ revealed his modus operandi. He had an enormous influence on the emerging national cinemas of the ’60s in Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe, and no major filmmaker in America or Europe could ignore his radical challenge to established film grammar. Quentin Tarantino named his production company A Band Apart after Godard’s Bande à part, while Aki and Mika Kaurismäki’s unit was called Villealfa after Alphaville.
Jason Kliot, of Open City Pictures and Blow Up Films, puts it more succinctly: “Godard to modern film is what Picasso is to modern art—the ultimate daredevil and pioneer, the man who had no fear, the man willing to try anything in any genre and push it to its limits.”