Actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, star of ‘Breathless,’ dies at 88

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Jean-Paul Belmondo, star of the long-lasting French New Wave film “Breathless,” whose crooked boxer’s nose and rakish grin went on to form his one among the country’s most recognizable leading men, has died at 88. His death was confirmed Monday by the office of his lawyer, Michel Goddess. No explanation for death was given.

Belmondo’s career spanned half a century. within the 1960s, he embodied a replacement sort of male film star, one characterized by pure virility instead of classic attractiveness. He went on to seem in additional than 80 films and worked with a spread of major French directors, from Truffaut to Claude Lelouch and Jean-Luc Godard, whose 1960 movie “Breathless” (“Au Bout de Souffle” in its original French title) brought both men lasting acclaim.

Belmondo’s career choices were equally varied, from acclaimed art house films to critically lukewarm action and comedy films later in his career. His unconventional looks — flattened nose, full lips, and muscular frame — allowed him to play roles from thug to policeman, a thief to the priest, Cyrano de Bergerac to an unshakable spy. Belmondo was also a gifted athlete who often did his own stunts. French President Emmanuel Macron called the actor a “national treasure” in an homage on Twitter and Instagram, recalling the actor’s panache, his laugh, and his versatility. Belmondo was directly a “sublime hero” and “a familiar figure,” Macron wrote. “In him, we all recognize ourselves.”

France bounded into Belmondo mode at the news of his death, with praise from politicians of all stripes pouring in. The media played old movie clips that caught the athletic Belmondo within the heart-stopping acrobatics he was known to like, from sliding down a rooftop to climbing up a ladder from a moving convertible. “I’m devastated,” an emotional Alain Delon, another top cinema star, said of the death of his longtime friend on CNews.

Even the Paris police station offered its condolences for Belmondo, who played a policeman in numerous films, tweeting that “a great movie cop has left us.” Belmondo, affectionately referred to as Bebel, was born on April 9, 1933, within the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine into an inventive family. His father was renowned sculptor Paul Belmondo and his mother, Sarah Rainaud-Richard, was a painter.

Belmondo played soccer and trained as a boxer before quitting school at 16. He took up acting within the 1950s at the Paris Conservatory, where one among his teachers, Pierre Dux, famously told him that his career as a number one man was doomed due to his looks. People would burst into laughter if they saw an actress in Belmondo’s arms, Dux said, consistent with biographer Bertrand Tessier.

French drama critic Jean-Jacques Gautier wasn’t impressed either, once saying: “Mr. Belmondo will never enjoy success together with his ruffian’s mug.” At his final conservatory competition, the jury did not give him the popularity he thought he deserved — so he gave the judges an obscene parting gesture. The star began acting in small provincial theaters and caught the attention of aspiring filmmaker Godard in Paris in 1958, who asked him to seem during a short film. At first, Belmondo didn’t take Godard seriously. “I spoke to my wife about it, and she or he said, ‘Go ahead. If (Godard) hassles you, punch him,’” Belmondo told the Liberation newspaper in 1999.

Belmondo was given his first important role by director Claude Sautet in “Classe Tous risques” (Consider All Risks) during which he starred alongside Lino Ventura in 1960. an equivalent year, Godard called Belmondo back to seem in “Breathless” — which became one among the breakthrough films of the French New Wave. The movement, including Truffaut, grouped filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s who abandoned traditional narrative techniques and were known for his or her mood of youthful iconoclasm.

Belmondo played opposite American actress Jean Seberg, who appeared because the street-smart aspiring reporter who, within the film’s key moment, sold the International Herald Tribune on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Belmondo sometimes said he acted in Godard’s first film and would act in his last. But he didn’t link his name exclusively with one director and worked with most of France’s top filmmakers — and lots of Europe’s most well-known actresses, including Jeanne Moreau and Loren . Following the large success of “Breathless,” Belmondo showed the vast array of his talent and his versatility in dramas (“Leon Morin, pretre”), arthouse movies (“Moderato Cantabile”), and blockbusters (“Cartouche”).

In “Un Singe en hiver,” a French classic directed by Henri Verneuil in 1962, Belmondo impressed the legendary Jean Gabin. “You won’t tell me anymore: ‘If only I had a young Gabin.’ you’ve got him!” Gabin told the director about Belmondo. In Truffaut’s 1969 “Mississippi Mermaid,” Belmondo played a tobacco farmer and starred opposite Catherine Deneuve. Belmondo and Danish-born Anna Karina played a few on the run in Godard’s 1965 “Pierrot le Fou.” Belmondo also won a Cesar — the French equivalent of an Oscar — for his role in Lelouch’s 1988 film “Itinerary of a Spoiled Child,” his final big success.

During the last half of his career, Belmondo opted for high-paying roles in commercially successful action films. He played a troublesome detective in “Cop or Hooligan,” and a war II ace in “Champion of Champions.” In the 1980s, Belmondo returned to the stage, his old flame, and won back the doubting critics. His comeback role was during a 1987 Paris production of “Kean,” about an actor famous for his uncontrollable temper and genius. Belmondo, who had recovered from a stroke in 2001, is survived by three children, Florence, Paul, and Stella Eva Angelina. Another daughter, Patricia, died in 1994. Funeral arrangements weren’t immediately known.

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