The flattened nose of a boxer (which it was), the slightly battered rubbery face, and a mischievous smile that seduced the world universe. Jean Paul Belmondo he died in his home in Paris. He was 88 years old. It was the male icon of the New wave the sixties and then the laconic, malleable, slouchy and sexy interpreter of a lot of action and genre cinema from the seventies / eighties. A provocative and seductive anti-hero figure who chauvinistically made Hollywood stereotypes to meatballs. And it was indeed Jean-Luc Godard, father godfather of the new wave and theoretical / practical destroyer of “daddy’s cinema”, to grasp its non-canonical acting peculiarities when he wanted it in that strange object of the fetishistic desire of critics: Until the last breath. It was 1960 and Belmondo was 27 years old. Until that moment he had dedicated himself to a lot of theater (also meeting on stage Anne Girardot) and a bit of boxing, even a few particles in some meatloafs even with Alain Delon, another French icon of the time, more enemy than friend, still unknown like him.
Godard calls him that he doesn’t even expect it, also because Godard was just a mysterious reviewer of the Cahiers and Bébel, so he was nicknamed by his colleagues in the years to come, he had been a gangster in a film with Lino Ventura and D’Artagnan in a TV miniseries French. And nothing, here he is a rash little hilarious criminal who steals a car and then kills a policeman, smiling, cigarette in his mouth, jacket and tie, next to Jean Seberg on the great Parisian boulevards. Until the final, unspectacular, iconic scene of his killing, as he runs from behind in the middle of the road. The spectators were over two million and even arrived there cover of Life. From there Belmondo literally took off, providing malleable and abstract material for two other Godard titles such as Woman is woman e Pierrot le fou.
1960 is also the year of The Ciociara from Vittorio De Sica, of which he is co-starring with Sophia Loren, then between 1961 and ’62 here he is on the sets of Jean Pierre Melville, master of both action cinema and directors like Tarantino e John Woo, both in Leon Morin priest (the sexy charge he puts in this character is unsurpassable) and in it The spy. Films that will affirm this authentic gift of charismatic acting with lightness and determination. It is difficult to keep up with a production that is seriously interrupted only in 2001, the year in which the Parisian actor ends up dying from a stroke. In fact, Belmondo worked for very popular directors in France such as Henri Verneuil and Philippe De Broca, Louis Malle e René Clement. He never wanted to learn English, it was said at the time, otherwise Hollywood had called him. Except that the boy who was inspired by the gallant sentimentality of Jules Berry could only stay on his homeland and soar.
The turning point came in 1970 when Alain Delon, as producer and co-performer, wants to share the set as a couple. He will play Capella, and Delon none other than Sifredi, two gangsters who become the bosses of the fish and meat market in Marseille. The two go straight on the set (Jacques Deray directs), but then Delon, the producer, once filming is over, sends Belmondo to the devil several times, also underlining his somewhat bizarre behavior. The fact is that Delon continues his career (which will curiously take him to Godard in the eighties) with his production company, while Belmondo is definitively established for a light-hearted and engaging action cinema (The heir, Lbeautiful) along the lines of the great success of ’64, The man from Rio, a cinema that wants to be popular and commercial, far from the Nouvelle Vague, more performative on a physical level and ironically more clownish.
The big rejection, besides Hollywood, will still remain the main part in Fahrenheit 451 of Truffaut with whom he will work My drug is called Julie. Four children, married twice, also officially linked to Ursula Andress e Laura Antonelli, Belmondo worked with all the greatest actresses of her era: from Jean Moreau a Claudia Cardinale, as far as Catherine Deneuve, Francois Dorleac e Gina Lollobrigidto. The Venice International Film Festival had awarded him in 2016 with a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (when in his career he snatched a miserable Cesar and it is known that he would have wanted to receive an award at Cannes for the interpretation of Stavinsky by Alain Resnais) that he withdrew smiling, happy, but also quite detached from any possible idea of anecdotal or memory of the past. Already in the eighties an interview with Cinemas Cinema was famous where he spoke only of the bad films he interpreted and on the decline of his career. As we write these lines Alain Delon, a lifelong enemy / friend, who met in Belmondo in 1988 in One chance out of two said: “I am devastated. It wouldn’t have been bad if we’d left together ”. Probably Belmondo would have agreed.