A pioneer of the French new wave, Jean-Luc Godard has had an incalculable effect on modern cinema that refuses to wane. Before directing, Godard was an ethnology student and a critic for Cahiers du cinéma, and his approach to filmmaking reflects his interest in how cinematic form intertwines with social reality. His groundbreaking debut feature, Breathless—his first and last mainstream success—is, of course, essential Godard: its strategy of merging high (Mozart) and low (American crime thrillers) culture has been mimicked by generations of filmmakers. As the sixties progressed, Godard’s output became increasingly radical, both aesthetically (A Woman Is a Woman, Contempt, Band of Outsiders) and politically (Masculin féminin, Pierrot le fou), until by 1968 he had forsworn commercial cinema altogether, forming a leftist filmmaking collective (the Dziga Vertov Group) and making such films as Tout va bien. Today Godard remains our greatest lyricist on historical trauma, religion, and the legacy of cinema.