Jean-Luc Godard, who turns 87 years young today, has been inventing, creating, entertaining, challenging, confusing and/or pissing us off since 1950. Starting out exclusively as a film critic, he lasted two years before seizing the reins himself, at first making short films before he shattered the film world in 1960 with his first feature, À bout de soufflé (Breathless). This pioneer of the French New Wave was having nothing to do with the vacuous and glossy “Hollywood” style of filmmaking – instead he bolted headlong into experimentation in narrative structure, cinematography and editing, not only mastering, but revolutionizing each skill.
He imbues his work with his own, personal humanist impressions of the world, framed with an existential point of view and loaded with Marxist sensibilities towards class struggles and a deep anti-war, anti-imperialist sentiment. Known for tirelessly tilting at windmills, Godard took on everything from war to Kodak film stock, which he (rightfully) claimed was racist, as it favored white skin over dark – a problem eventually rectified by the company.
He can lay claim to being one of the most successful directors in history as listed by Sight & Sound, having six films sitting on their most recent decade poll, the only living director with five or more films on the list. And he is still reasonably active – he dazzled again in 2014 with the 3D Adieu au Langage (Goodbye to Language), his 42nd feature and 121st film/video project (!)
Whether or not you agree with his politics, his world-view or his constantly challenging narrative style, there is no denying that world cinema and every contemporary international filmmaker of worth has Godard to thank for keeping the medium vital and relevant.
So birthday greetings and eternal gratitude to Jean-Luc Godard, film critic, director, actor, cinematographer, screenwriter, editor, producer…and outspoken citizen of the world. May he never grow old.