Jean-Paul Belmondo, the laconic anti-hero with street-smart charm, lead the French New Wave of the late 50s and 60s. Working with directors like Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, Belmondo became part of a cinematic style that would later influence modern filmmakers from Martin Scorsese to Quentin Tarantino.
Belmondo started out life wanting to be a professional boxer, but soon realised it was better to have his ego bruised than his body. His unconventional looks and rogue charm lead him to numerous roles, typically playing dashing adventurers or cynical heroes.
But it was his performance as Michel Poiccard in Jean-Luc Godard’s A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) 1959, which made Belmondo an international star. The success of the film even resulted in a wave of “Belmondism” in the hipper circles of Paris, with young men modelling themselves on him.
His personal life mirrored often his on-screen persona, attracting publicity for his numerous marriages and affaires, even at age seventy. In 2011, the Cannes Film Festival paid tribute to Belmondo by awarding him a special Palme d’Or to commemorate his exceptional body of work.
Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures