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Godard’s afterlife begins at Cannes

Stars and film buffs turned out on a rainy Sunday at Cannes to see the last film by Jean-Luc Godard, one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century.

Posthumous short film “Phony Wars” was presented alongside a new documentary about the Swiss director, who died last year aged 91 by assisted suicide.

US director Jim Jarmusch and actor Salma Hayek were among those at the screening, along with China’s Wang Bing who has a documentary in this year’s competition. 

Godard’s short film was a collage of images with text set to bursts of music — characteristic of the director’s beautiful but ever-more obscure late works. 

The documentary, “Godard by Godard”, retraces the main chapters in Godard’s long career, from his rule-breaking early movies “Breathless” and “Band of Outsiders” that have inspired generations of filmmakers, and shows his playful side at work and in interviews.

There was spontaneous applause midway through when it showed Godard at Cannes in 1968, calling for the festival to be cancelled in solidarity with student protests.

There have been fears of unrest at this year’s edition linked to President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms, though there has been little disruption so far. 

Godard’s work “will continue to live in books, films, and find new audiences and young spectators,” said Frederic Bonnaud, president of the French Cinematheque, who wrote the documentary’s script.

Godard made a turn to politics in the 1970s, and then stopped making features completely for several years as he experimented with different styles and technologies.

When he returned to features in the 1980s and 1990s, his experimental style brought him both acclaim and derision.

One scene shows a member of the public throwing a cream cake in his face at Cannes in 1985.

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