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Jean-Paul Belmondo

Jean-Paul Belmondo at 80: a Career in 10 Movies

By Adrienne Benassy



"With the face he has, he will never be able to take a woman in his arms because it would not be credible"

Jean-Paul Belmondo

This is what Pierre Dux, his drama teacher, once said about Jean-Paul Belmondo when talking about him. Now that he is celebrating his 80th birthday after an incredibly successful career in acting, including kissing many beautiful women on screen, stage and in his personal life. We can probably conclude that his drama teacher was wrong.

After more than 75 roles in films, opposite actresses such as Catherine Deneuve, Jean Seberg and Françoise Dorléac, Pierrot le Fou not only seduced some of the most stunning women in the world (including the James Bond Girl, Ursula Andress), he became an icon of post-war French cinema.


A Bout de souffle
A bout de souffle

The famous actor was nevertheless quite reluctant to enter the film industry at the beginning of his career and wanted to dedicate himself to theatre. "It's Godard that made me love cinema (...) before Breathless, they had told me so many times that I wasn't good enough so I had many doubts" he confessed in 2001. This was his first major role opposite the charming American actress Jean Seberg. The film launched his career with such success that he then became one of the French New Wave's emblematic actors, playing masculine, carefree and bohemian crooks with Godard (Pierrot Le Fou) or Truffaut (Mississippi Mermaid). 

Flic Voyou
Flic Voyou


After his debut in poetic and innovative French cinema from the 1960s, Jean-Paul Belmondo turned towards popular comedy and enjoyed embodying funny street-wise Parisians. His broken nose also helped him play daredevil gangsters and macho guys looking for a fight. These were the days when Belmondo got into very physical roles - he is also a boxer - in Borsalino alongside French star Alain Delon, Flic ou Voyou (Cop or Crook) or L'As des as (The Ace of Aces). The film critics disliked this change of repertoire, but Belmondo, then dubbed as 'Bébel' by the public, was proud to be a popular star. 

The permanently tanned actor was on a box-office roller coaster and there was very little that could derail his progress. Solitaire (1987) was his first commercial failure, but soon he came back on screen with Itinéraire d'un enfant gâté (Itinerary of a spoilt child) directed by Claude Lelouch and received a César for Best Actor. However, he refused to attend the ceremomy.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
Jean-Paul Belmondo

After a stroke in 2001, he was not seen on screen for a few years. He came back as a marginalised elderly man on the verge of dying alone in Francis Huster's film Un homme et son chien (A Man and His Dog, 2008). Today, there are high expectations of his role opposite French humourists and actors such as Franck Dubosc and Aldo Maccione in Claude Lelouch's latest film, Les Bandits Manchots (Armless/Clumsy Crooks), a movie that brings together "the old jerks and the young jerks" according to the director. To celebrate the iconic actor's 80th birthday, France in London takes a look at his career with 10 of his greatest movies. 


Breathless (1960) by Jean-Luc Godard

A young car thief kills a policeman and tries to persuade a girl to hide in Italy with him.


A Monkey in Winter (1962) by Henri Verneuil 

A small hotel-manager in Normandy promises his wife he would never have another glass of alcohol. This was before Fouquet comes in and tempts him...


That Man From Rio (1964) by Philippe de Broca

Adrien Dufourquet sees witnesses his fiancée, daughter of a grand ethnologist, being kidnapped. He goes off to Brazil to look for her and discovers illegal trading in Indian statues traffic. 


Pierrot Le Fou (1965) by Jean-Luc Godard

Pierrot escapes his boring world and travels from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea with Marianne, a girl chased by hit-men from Algeria. They lead an unorthodox life, always on the run.


Mississippi Mermaid (1969) by François Truffaut

Louis Mahe is a tobacco planter on Reunion Island. He is waiting for Julie Roussel to marry her. He only knows her by mail. The woman that comes does not look like the picture he previously received, but he marries her anyway. Soon, she flees with Louis's money. She was not the real Julie Roussel but Marion. Louis goes after her to try and  find her...


The Brain (1969) by Gérard Oury

Arthur and Anatole are two little robbers. They want to steal the money that will travel in a postal train from Paris to Bruxelles. They are unaware that other people have planned to do exactly the same thing. 


Borsalino (1970) by Jacques Deray

In 1930 Marseilles two small-time crooks meet brawling over a woman and decide to join forces. Starting with fixing horse races and fights, they start to find themselves doing jobs for the local gangster bosses. When they decide to go into the business for themselves, their easy-going approach to crime starts to change.


Le Magnifique (1973) by Philippe de Broca

Francois Merlin is an spy-book writer. He likes to use every-day character he meets in his book. In his book, he is Bob Saint Clar, his neighbour Christine appears as Tatiana and his editor Georges Charon as Colonel Karpoff. 


Itinéraire d'un Enfant Gâté (1988) by Claude Lelouch

Sam Lion was born and raised in the circus world, but was forced to change his career and becomes a company director. When he turns fifty, these responsibilities bore him, and his son, Jean-Philippe, is quite useless when it comes to helping him out. He flies to Africa and disappears, but one of his former employees decides to track him down...




Un homme et son chien (2008) by Francis Huster

An elderly gentleman and his dog find themselves out of a home with very little money.


15/04/2013 - s.pollock-hill said :

Bonne Anniversaire Bel-Bel, ( du 9 avril).
Plus de 85 films, plus theatre, est la TV, est le preuve qu'il figure parmi les plus grands de sa generation, un pilier immense du cinema francais......
Quelle bonne nouvelle qu'il retourne dans un film de Lelouch bientot !


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