Jean-Paul Belmondo, the iconic star of Jean-Luc Godard film Breathless, has passed away at the age of 88.
A classic film of the French New Wave movement, Jean-Paul Belmondo became the face of a self-reflective, revolutionary genre, disregarding the classical conventions of cinema to pave the way for a brand new filmmaking perspective. Belmondo became the cool, rebellious figurehead for a brand new movement of filmmaking, capturing the style and imagination of 1960s France.
Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris on April 9th, 1933, Jean-Paul grew up in a bohemian household that saw him drop out of school and take up amateur boxing, a career he thrived in, if only for a short period of time. As he reported to the New York Times, “I stopped when the face I saw in the mirror began to change”.
After several performances on stage, Jean-Paul Belmondo broke into the film industry with the role of Laszlo in Claude Chabrol’s 1958 film Youthful Sinners, where the strength of his role would give him a starring feature in 1960’s A Bout de Souffle (Breathless). The film would go on to define Jean-Paul Belmondo’s career and also take him to further success with Les Distraction, La Novice and Pierrot le Fou in 1965.
Enjoying a mix of dramatic, comedic and action roles, by the mid-1960s, Belmondo had joined the mainstream of cinema, setting up his own production company named Cerito. Joining international ensemble casts, he even joined the James Bond spoof Casino Royale in 1967 alongside David Niven.
“I don’t want to be a flying grandpa of the French cinema,” Belmondo announced as he moved away from action cinema, returning to the stage in 1987 for the first time in almost 30 years. Dividing his time between the theatre and the silver screen, Jean-Paul Belmondo would later win a Cesar for his performance in the French film Itinéraire d’un enfant gâté.
Jean-Paul Belmondo leaves a stunning film legacy as the icon of revolutionary French cinema, paving the way for a new type of modern European cinema that remains avidly celebrated.
Belmondo was married twice and is survived by three children.