"Every story has a beginning, middle and an end. But not necessarily in that order," said Jean-Luc Goddard, one of the most outstanding filmmakers of our times. After a long innings of 57 years as a filmmaker, Godard passed away with his family around him, on September 13, 2022. He reportedly chose euthanasia, which is legally permitted in Switzerland where he passed away.

It took time for any film buff, critic, and filmmaker to warm up to Godard's cinema. He had created a distinct genre of his own, where he evolved through narrative, non-narrative and technical innovations from one period to the next to explore three-dimension differently, much before it became a popular form among filmmakers.

Godard is considered one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century and one of the leaders of the French New Wave.

I was first introduced to Godard at a retrospective of his films at the IFFI, Delhi, many years ago. The first film I recall watching was Masculine Feminine (1966) shot in black-and-white. Truth be told, I did not understand a single frame, a single interaction between the hero and the heroine, or anything about the story.

But, like the audience in The Emperor's New Clothes, I kept silent, afraid of being considered an ignoramus in world cinema which, incidentally, I was. And in some senses, I still am.

Masculine Feminine shot in Paris of the 1960s, is set against the backdrop of people believing in the credibility of Communism that still was understood to be a better alternative to Capitalism. Through and out-of-the-box love story of a young woman who dreams of becoming a singer, and a young man just out of military service, Godard effectively puts across the eternal quarrel between militarism and intellectualism, and French outrage over a protracted American invasion and one at once concludes that this is Godard's personal politics and philosophy.

We see and learn that this film was perhaps the first introduction to the sort of editing that has become common parlance today among filmmakers. However, many of them often misuse and abuse the techniques without understanding when, where and how to use them. Among these are the jump cuts, the innovative use of intertitles, jarring camera angles, and the breakdown of the invisible wall between performer and viewer.

Even so, Godard's film ignited in me the desire to watch some more of his films and try to understand what his characters were trying to say. It took a long time for me to realise that Godard's films were not about "understanding" or being entertained. They were about "feeling" and coming out of the theatre emotionally shaken, shocked, happy and sad.

Breathless, considered a milestone in world cinema, narrates the story of a wandering French gangster and his American girlfriend. His first film (1960) was based loosely on a newspaper article François Truffaut read in The News in Brief.

The character of Michel Poiccard is based on real-life Michel Portail and his American girlfriend and journalist Beverly Lynette. In the film she is called Patricia. In November 1952, Portail stole a car to visit his sick mother in Le Havre and ended up killing a motorcycle cop named Grimberg.

I particularly fell in love with the free-flowing style the way the camera captured Michel and his girlfriend as the latter is selling her newspaper on the streets of Paris. Jean-Paul Belmondo who portrayed Michel became an overnight heartthrob after this film was released.

A period of great activity and creative action for Godard happened between 1960 and 1967, in which he made the dozen films which form his Nouvelle Vague canon. The most successful was the 1963 feature Le Mépris ('Contempt'), starring Brigitte Bardot.

It was the most expensive film he made, and his only orthodox film, though it took Nouvelle Vague techniques and solidified them as the accepted way of modern cinema. The film was based on the 1954 Italian novel Il disprezzo (A Ghost at Noon) by Alberto Moravia. It starred Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli Jack Palance , and Giorgia Moll. It was Godard's unique attempt to make a self-reflexive film.

Moravia's novel provides a thematic and narrative spine to Godard's film, and some scenes follow it quite closely, (the central dialogue sequence in Paul and Camille's apartment compresses the book's relationship issues and follows a similar order of the marriage's dissolution). But Godard departs from the source material considerably.

Moravia's book is a rather urgent, agonised internal monologue by a man desperate to find out why his wife hates him, smarting from the slights to his masculinity and his integrity. HIs wife initially denies the accusations that she hates him, but ultimately admits it under his constant questioning (for a while, a reader might suspect that he is imagining it, projecting his own anxieties onto his wife). But she won't give him a reason.

Godard's Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live, or It's My Life), is about Nana enacted by Anna Karina who gives a breathtaking performance. She plays Nana, a woman forced by circumstances to choose the life of a sex worker after leaving a marriage in the hope of becoming an actress.

This film is far ahead of its time as it very boldly demonstrates how Nana, who is forced to become a sex worker, cherishes her independence and tries to cling to it as closely as she possibly can. But the time and circumstances went against her though she had stepped into it by force of circumstance.

Godard's own voice comes across as a commentator when, in staccato tones, he informs the audience about the legal, social and bodily issues involved in the job of being a professional sex worker. The character spells out the futuristic mindset and perceptions of Godard we are realising only today.

Like many of Godard's films, Pierrot le fou (1969) features characters who break the fourth wall, by looking into the camera. It also includes startling editing choices; for example, when Pierrot throws a cake at a woman in the party scene, Godard cuts to an exploding firework just as it hits her.

The film has many of the characteristics of the then dominant pop art movement, making constant references to elements of mass culture. The film uses visuals drawn from cartoons and employs an intentionally garish visual aesthetic based on bright primary colours.

Godard did not believe in the conventional grammar of narrative cinema and broke every rule in the cinema book directors had practised for decades together. He married, successfully in his own way, the language of cinema with other languages springing from literature, from other forms of art, and revelled in fleshing out characters that were 'outsiders', and mostly belonged to rather marginalised 'boxes' of the mainstream.

Godard was born into a wealthy Franco-Swiss family on December 3, 1930 in Paris's plush Seventh Arrondissement. His father was a doctor, his mother the daughter of a Swiss who founded Banque Paribas, then an illustrious investment bank.

Initially, his interest in films was purely as a critic, writing for the publication Cahiers du Cinéma. His interest in films blossomed in 1950, when he joined the Ciné-Club du Quartier Latin. There he met Claude Chabrol and Francois Truffaut, who would also become influential members of the Nouvelle Vague. He made his first short film in 1954.

"It's not where you take things from – it's where you take them to," Godard once said. He practised this in his repertoire of films.