Actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, the face of French New Wave cinema, dies at 88: NPR

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French actors Jean-Paul Belmondo, right, and Catherine Deneuve, in 1969. They starred together in François Truffaut’s film Mississippi mermaid.

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French actors Jean-Paul Belmondo, right, and Catherine Deneuve, in 1969. They starred together in François Truffaut’s film Mississippi mermaid.

Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

French film star Jean-Paul Belmondo, whose starring role in the New Wave classic Breathless brought him international fame, died at the age of 88.

French President Emmanuel Macron mourned the death of a man he called a “national treasure” on Twitter. “He will forever remain The Magnificent,” Macron wrote, nodding to a slapstick 1973 spy satire that was just one in a long list of celebrity tricks in a career that spanned six decades.

Belmondo’s death at his Paris home on Monday was confirmed by his lawyer, Michel Godest, to the French news agency France Media Agency. “He had been very tired for some time. He died peacefully,” Godest said.

Known for his craggy features, winning smile and ubiquitous cigarette, Belmondo has often been compared by critics. other prominent men Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando and James Dean. He played tough rebels with a core of sweetness – and effortlessly cool.

Born outside Paris in 1933 to artistic parents, Belmondo was an athlete who was growing up and training to be a boxer. He found his way into the theater as a teenager and eventually landed a place at the national conservatory of dramatic art in France.

Belmondo began to reserve roles in short and feature films in the 1950s. In 1960, Jean-Luc Godard cast the young actor as a criminal in Breathless, facing the American actress Jean Seberg. In the film, Michel de Belmondo, a petty thief, steals a car and murders a policeman. He then fled to Paris, where he hid with Patricia de Seberg while preparing an escape to Italy. The film’s wild success in France and abroad made it the face of the French New Wave, an experimental movement that revolutionized world cinema.

“The key to Belmondo’s success in the 1960s was that everyone wanted him for one reason or another, and he looked like a guy who quickly got fed up with all the demands but also ready. to show off in its best light if you really needed to. ” the movie critic Dan Callahan wrote on Monday in remembrance of Belmondo.

Belmondo resisted efforts by Hollywood directors to woo him in America, saying, “Why make my life difficult? I’m too stupid to learn the language and it would be a disaster,” according to the New York Times.

This decision does not seem to cost him any commercial success. In France, he remained a big star, playing alongside film legends Sophia Loren and Catherine Deneuve and playing roles in popular comedies and action films in the 1970s and 80s. He insisted on doing most of it. of its own waterfalls.

He appeared regularly on screen until the 21st century, until a stroke in 2001, he paralyzed one side of his body and left him unable to speak for six months. After his rehabilitation, he returned to play in a last film, A man and his dog, in 2008. In 2017, he received a standing ovation of more than two minutes when he received a Lifetime Achievement Honor at the César, the French equivalent of the Oscars.

“Jean-Paul Belmondo is deceased and cinema will never be so cool again” Edgar wright, the director of films whose Last night in Soho and Baby Driver, tweeted on Monday.



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