The French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo died this Monday, aged 88. The news was confirmed by the artist’s lawyer to the news agency “AFP”.
“He was tired for some time. He died peacefully,” said lawyer Michel Godest, who confirmed the actor was at home.
Charismatic and always tanned, Belmondo, affectionately nicknamed Bébel by fans, has become an icon of the Nouvelle Vague for his performance in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Besieged” in 1960. Since then, there have been more than 80 features, between art films, comedies and thrillers. The actor has been off screen since 2001, when he suffered a stroke. He only returned to work in 2008 on “Un homme et son chien” (“A man and his dog”) about an elderly man rejected by society.
In 2011, the Cannes Film Festival awarded his career with a Palme of Honor and the Venice Film Festival with a Golden Lion.
From boxing to cinema
Born April 9, 1933 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a wealthy suburb of Paris, Belmondo grew up in a family of artists. His father, of Italian origin, was a renowned sculptor who enrolled his son in elite schools. The young man did not do well in his studies, he was more fond of sports, having started a boxing career as a teenager.
In 1952, already interested in the arts, Belmondo got a place at the National Academy of Dramatic Arts. He began making plays and small film appearances, until the day he caught Godard’s attention, in 1958, when he was still a critic of the magazine “Cahiers du Cinéma”. Godard invited him to the short film “Charlotte et son Jules”, which marked their first meeting on a set. But the partnership that was really going to take Belmondo to the iconic hall of the Nouvelle Vague was filmed in mid-1959 and released in 1960: “Burst”. In the film, the actor plays Michel Poiccard, a thief who steals a car in Marseilles and kills a policeman on his way to Paris. In the capital, he meets a young American woman (Jean Seberg) who starts to hide him.
The film’s success catapulted the young actor’s name into the eyes of directors around the world (as early as 1960, he made “Two Women”, an Italian feature by Vittorio De Sica with Sophia Loren), but focused on French cinema, especially in partnership with Gordard (“A Woman is a Woman”, 1961, was another hit movie of theirs) and with Jean-Pierre Melville (“Léon Morin – The Priest”, 1961, and “Technique of a whistleblower”, of 1962.
In 1963, Belmondo was in Brazil for the filming of “O Homem do Rio”, a film by Philippe de Broca, a director specializing in adventure and comedy who made several more popular films with Belmondo. The feature was released in France in February 1964 and was a box office and critical success, receiving an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.
Author x popular cinema
In addition to being in front of the cameras, Bébel was also behind them, acting as producer for films by Claude Chabrol, Philippe de Broca and Alain Resnais.
Belmondo has often been criticized for taking a more popular turn in his career. Many critics have been disappointed to see great Nouvelle Vague actor star in shallow comedies. He, however, didn’t mind: “I’m proud to be a popular star, I don’t disdain public approval.”
The public reward was generous. For more than 20 years, 48 of his films surpassed one million tickets, until the failure of “The Solitary” (1987). “I was fed up and so was the audience,” he confessed.
Success returned with Claude Lelouch’s “Itinerary of an Adventurer” (1988), one of his best roles, which earned him a César of French cinema, an award he nevertheless refused to pursue.
His return to the theater, where his career actually began, took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There, he met some of his best friends, such as Jean-Pierre Marielle, Jean Rochefort and Pierre Vernier. He was much applauded in “Kean” and “Cyrano” in his Parisian Théâtre des Varietés.
Belmondo was the father of four children: Patricia (now deceased), Florence, Paul and Stella.