Jean-Paul Belmondo, Magnetic Star of the French New Wave, Dies at 88

Jean-Paul Belmondo, the rugged actor whose disdainful eyes, boxer’s nostril, sensual lips and cynical outlook made him the idolized personification of youthful alienation in the French New Wave, most notably in his traditional efficiency as an existential killer in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless,” died on Monday at his residence in Paris. He was 88.

His lawyer, Michel Godest, confirmed the loss of life in an interview on the French tv information channel BFM. No trigger was given.

Like Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando and James Dean — three American actors to whom he was often in contrast — Mr. Belmondo established his repute taking part in robust, unsentimental, even delinquent characters who have been lower adrift from bourgeois society. Later, as one of France’s main stars, he took extra crowd-pleasing roles, however with out completely surrendering his magnetic brashness.

Like Bogart, Mr. Belmondo introduced craggy options and typically seething anger to the display, a practical counterpoint to extra conventionally good-looking romantic stars. Like Dean, he grew to become one of the most generally imitated popular culture figures of his period. And like Brando, he was typically dismissive of pretentiousness and self-importance amongst filmmakers.

“No actor since James Dean has inspired quite such intense identification,” Eugene Archer wrote in The New York Times in 1965. “Dean evoked the rebellious adolescent impulse, as fierce as it was gratuitous, a violent outgrowth of the frustrations of the modern world. Belmondo is a later manifestation of youthful rejection — and more disturbing. His disengagement from a society his parents made is total. He accepts corruption with a cynical smile, not even bothering to struggle. He is out entirely for himself, to get whatever he can, while he can. The Belmondo type is capable of anything.”

His main position in “À bout de souffle” — launched in the United States in 1961 as “Breathless” — was immediately acknowledged as trendsetting; subsequent imitators solely cemented its significance. Mr. Belmondo’s mop of unruly hair, the means he peered at the world by means of a twisting net of cigarette smoke, and the means he obsessively massaged his thick, female lips together with his thumb have been so vivid and evocative that they shortly grew to become world signposts of insurrection.

Mr. Belmondo in “Breathless.” His on-screen mannerisms grew to become world signposts of insurrection.Credit…Films-Around-The -World

Mr. Belmondo was 28 and Mr. Godard was 26 when “Breathless” was being made. The movie was based mostly on an thought by François Truffaut, one other icon of the nouvelle imprecise, and started taking pictures in Paris with out a script. Mr. Godard used a hand-held digital camera — besides in the road scenes, when he would typically mount the digital camera on a borrowed wheelchair — and let everybody improvise. The ensuing movie was tough and ill-shaped, however it had a way of emotional honesty and verisimilitude that made it electrical. Many mainstream critics appeared uncertain what to make of it.

Bosley Crowther wrote in The Times: “It goes at its unattractive subject in an eccentric photographed style that sharply conveys the nervous tempo and the emotional erraticalness of the story it tells. And through the American actress, Jean Seberg, and a hypnotically ugly new young man by the name of Jean-Paul Belmondo, it projects two downright fearsome characters.”

Many critics discovered Mr. Belmondo’s amoral antihero just a little too sturdy. But others present in the position a uncooked truthfulness and a thematic boldness at odds with the bulk of what was popping out of Hollywood studios.

Restless and a Little Bored

Mr. Belmondo adopted up “Breathless” with a collection of celebrated turns for different New Wave administrators and was quickly broadly seen as the motion’s main interpreter — though in later years he informed interviewers that some of the most intellectually bold efforts he had been concerned in had bored him.

When he starred as a steelworker reverse Jeanne Moreau in Peter Brooks’ “Moderato Cantabile” (1960), he mentioned the script, by the French novelist Marguerite Duras, was too mental for his style. He often expressed ambivalence about working for esoteric administrators like Mr. Brooks, Alain Resnais and Michelangelo Antonioni.

In different roles Mr. Belmondo was a Hungarian who will get romantically concerned with a Provençal household in Claude Chabrol’s “À double tour” (1959) and a younger nation priest in “Leon Morin, Priest” (1962). He additionally helped his co-star, Sophia Loren, win an Academy Award in Vittorio De Sica’s “Two Women” (1961), a drama set throughout World War II wherein he performed a younger Communist mental in mountainous central Italy.

By the mid ’60s, although, he was chafing at taking part in the younger antihero in movie after movie.

“Lots of times, I’d be out with a chick and some kid would want to give me a bad time,” Mr. Belmondo informed an interviewer. “I used to fight it out with them. It’s the same now. Everyone wants to say he’s flattened Belmondo.”

The turning level for him got here in Philippe De Broca’s “That Man From Rio,” a 1964 over-the-top spy thriller that performed like a parody of James Bond. Audiences beloved it, and so they beloved Mr. Belmondo in it. More essential, Mr. Belmondo beloved doing it. Although some critics who revered the tougher work of the French New Wave derided Mr. Belmondo as a promote out, he informed interviewers that this movie remained his favourite.

Mr. Belmondo in “That Man From Rio” (1964), an over-the-top spy thriller. It was a turning level for the actor, who had begun chafing at being typecast as a younger antihero.Credit…Cohen Media Group

Later in his profession Mr. Belmondo professed an unpretentious modesty, shrugging off his success, however at his box-office peak in the 1960s, he was something however modest. In an interview with the movie critic Rex Reed in 1966, he all however sneered at American followers who have been lining as much as see his films.

“I do not blame them,” he mentioned, puffing on a cigar and stretching out his lengthy legs beneath a desk at Harry’s Bar in Venice. “I am worth standing in line to see.”

By this time there have been rumors that regardless of having been married since 1955 to Elodie Constantin, a former ballerina, Mr. Belmondo was concerned with different ladies. When Mr. Reed requested him about this, he shrugged that off, too.

“Listen, I am only 32 years old,” he mentioned. “I’m not dead. And please remember, I am French. I am happily married this year, but next year? Who knows?”

A yr later the marriage had resulted in divorce. Mr. Belmondo had three youngsters with Ms. Constantin. The eldest, Patricia, died in a hearth in 1994, however their youthful daughter, Florence, and a son, Paul, survive him.

The divorce was rumored to have resulted from a romance by Mr. Belmondo with one of his co-stars, Ursula Andress. He and Ms. Andress did have a long-term public relationship after the divorce. He was later romantically concerned with one other actress, Laura Antonelli. But not till 2002, when he was 70 years outdated, did he marry once more, to 24-year-old Nathalie Tardivel. That marriage resulted in divorce six years later. They had a daughter, Stella, who additionally survives him.

A Left Bank Boyhood

Jean-Paul Belmondo was born on April 9, 1933, in the middle-class Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. His household moved to the metropolis’s Left Bank when he was a boy, and he grew up in the neighborhoods round Montparnasse and Saint-Germain-des-Prés. His father, Paul Belmondo, who was born in Algiers to a household of Italian origin, was a extremely regarded sculptor. He later informed interviewers that his son had been a tempestuous boy who had gotten into frequent scraps and did poorly in class.

The boy’s mom, Madeline Rainaud-Richard, pushed him to do higher, however he resisted, Mr. Belmondo later recalled. Finally, he dropped out of college altogether as a teen. At 16, he grew to become an enthusiastic beginner boxer (though his well-known smashed nostril got here not from an organized bout however from a playground dust-up), giving it up solely when he turned to appearing.

“I stopped when the face I saw in the mirror began to change,” he mentioned.

For a number of years, till he was 20, his mother and father paid for appearing classes at a personal conservatory. After a six-month navy tour in Algeria, he returned to Paris in 1953 and was accepted into the Conservatoire National d’Art Dramatique, the place he studied for 3 years. The college, a conservative one, didn’t know what to do with the insolent younger man who sauntered onto the stage in a Molière play together with his palms in his pockets.

When, at his commencement, in 1956, Mr. Belmondo was awarded solely an honorable point out by his lecturers, the different college students hoisted him on their shoulders and carried him from the theater as he flashed an obscene gesture at the judges.

Mr. Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve in François Truffaut’s 1969 film “Mississippi Mermaid.” Credit…Film Desk

For all his flamboyance and occasional fistfights, Mr. Belmondo was mentioned to be a consummate skilled on the set. Although in later years he continued to work every now and then with the nice administrators of the New Wave — most notably with Truffaut in “Mississippi Mermaid” (1969) — most of his energies went into mainstream favorites. Many of his movies after the mid-1960s have been made by his personal manufacturing firm.

More and extra Mr. Belmondo grew to become identified for in style adventures, normally comedian thrillers. And he grew to become well-known for elaborate stunts wherein he took nice satisfaction in performing himself. He hung from skyscrapers, leapt throughout rushing trains, drove vehicles off hillsides. Co-stars mentioned he appeared all however fearless. While taking pictures one scene in South America, he was warned that a river, into which he was about to plunge for a scene, was crammed with toxic snakes and piranha. Mr. Belmondo grabbed a bit of corned beef and slung it into the murky water. When nothing occurred, he jumped in and filmed the scene.

He mentioned he had determined, “What the hell, if they’re not going to chew on that, they’re not going to eat me.”

Finally, an harm throughout the filming of “Hold-Up” in 1985, when he was 52, compelled him to depart the stunts to the stunt males.

Hollywood Was Not for Him

Throughout, the Belmondo cult endured, although extra in France than round the world. His French followers knew him by his nickname, Bebel (pronounced bay-BELL).

No matter the scene, regardless of the co-stars, no matter mayhem was breaking out onscreen, Mr. Belmondo was all the time capable of have an effect on a peaceful, cool take away, as if he was extra amused than aroused by the exercise swirling round him. He introduced a contact of comedy to his motion roles and a touch of hazard to his comedian roles; one may effectively think about him taking part in the reluctant, wisecracking hero in American motion collection of the 1980s like “Die Hard.”

Mr. Belmondo by no means made the transition to Hollywood, largely as a result of he didn’t need to. “Why complicate my life?” he mentioned. “I am too stupid to learn the language and it would only be a disaster.”

Mr. Belmondo in 2007. By selection he by no means made the transition to Hollywood. Credit…Joel Saget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In 1989 he was awarded the Cesar Award for greatest actor, the French equal of the Oscar, for his efficiency in Claude Lelouch’s “Itineraire d’un enfant gate,” taking part in a middle-aged industrialist who fakes his loss of life after which sails the world.

By this time he had slowed his frenetic tempo, making solely 9 films in the 1980s, in comparison with 41 in 1960s and 16 in the 1970s. He reduce much more in the ’90s, when he made solely six movies, however this was due partly to a belated profession shift. Mr. Belmondo had not appeared in a stay manufacturing since 1959 when he returned to the theater in 1987. Particularly well-regarded was his sold-out run as “Cyrano de Bergerac” in Paris in 1990.

A stroke in 2001, nonetheless, compelled him to cease working. Not till eight years later was be again earlier than the cameras, taking pictures “Un homme et son chien” (“A Man and His Dog).” Released in 2009, it tells the story of an older gentleman who, accompanied by his loyal canine, abruptly finds himself with out a residence.

Late in life, when he was just a little thicker and far grayer, Mr. Belmondo appreciated to have an effect on some of the self-effacing modesty that was noticeably absent when he was at his peak in the 1960s.

When an interviewers requested him to clarify his enduring recognition, particularly with ladies, Mr. Belmondo responded together with his traditional informal shrug.

“Hell, everyone knows that an ugly guy with a good line gets the chicks,” he mentioned.

Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting.