Paris : So that's the end of that. With the deaths of Jean-Luc Goddard and Jean Marie Straub this year, the curtain has come down on two of the most radical filmmakers of the 20th century. In their wake, a great era of European cinema has drawn to a close.

Their unclassifiable films interrogated the nature of image-making past and present, encompassing a whole sweep of historical, philosophical and musical references.

While Mr. Godard remained famous, largely thanks to his early 1960s features that are among the world cinema's most recognized classics, Mr. Straub and his partner Daniele Huillet's films were barely seen, though consistently championed by the art house filmgoers.

What these directors gave us, in their different but extreme works, were among the deepest reflections of what cinema was and can be.

They leave European cinema, buffeted by the pandemic, in a parlous state. Attendance numbers across the continent are in decline, the range of films is diminishing and ticket prices are rising.

Streaming platforms, which offer a model of movie-watching that is cheaper, simpler and often more comfortable than a trip out to the movie theater, are generally held responsible for this state of affairs.

While a reprise of a common argument that technological innovation - from the emergence of sound to television - would bring the demise of cinema, the change has plenty of ammunition.

The ubiquity of readily accessible movies and television series has undeniably dented the willingness of people to seek out more challenging films.

And yet, to judge from the array of films released this year, there's nothing wrong with the quality of European filmmaking. Often I emerged from a movie theater surprised, moved, disturbed and encouraged.

Cinema may be threatened by changing habits of consumption, underfunding for non-blockbuster fare, narrow aesthetic codes and limited exposure, but it continues - more than 100 years after the Lumiere brothers pronounced the form's imminent death - to thrum with life.

Much of the vitality emerges from the work of female directors.

The World Students Society thanks author Emilie Bickerton.


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