France mourns “immortal” Belmondo, will pay national tribute on Thursday

FILE PHOTO: French actor Jean Paul Belmondo attends the WBA-WBC-IBO Middleweight World Championship in Monte Carlo
FILE PHOTO: French actor Jean Paul Belmondo attends the WBA-WBC-IBO Middleweight World Championship in Monte Carlo, early February 22, 2015. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

September 7, 2021

PARIS (Reuters) – Fans and stars paid tribute to Jean-Paul Belmondo on Tuesday, saying the charismatic French actor, who died on Monday aged 88, would live on forever in people’s minds and on screen.

Belmondo, who shot to international fame as a star of New Wave cinema after his breakthrough performance in Jean-Luc Godard’s “A bout de souffle” (“Breathless”) in 1959, had, for decades, been one of France’s most popular actors.

“He’s immortal,” fan Bruno Fougeroux said. “It’s the magic of cinema, you can keep on watching his movies forever. For me, Jean-Paul Belmondo will always be alive.”

President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Monday that the actor, who switched in the 1960s to mainstream films and became one of France’s leading comedy and action heroes, was a “national treasure”.

Alain Delon, also one of the greats of France’s cinema, told Europe 1 radio he was devastated.

“We have made French cinema, the two of us, he and I, we are two icons of French cinema, you can’t speak of one without the other. We are the same age, it won’t be long before it happens to me too,” he said, visibly moved.

An official ceremony will be organised on Thursday at the Hotel National des Invalides on Sept 9, the French presidency said.

On the streets of Paris, fans said he would be dearly missed. “He’s our Clint Eastwood, he’s a big man,” taxi driver Koffi Blimoli said.

A few years ago, another U.S. movie director, Quentin Tarantino, paid a tribute to Belmondo which circulated widely on social media on Tuesday.

“Belmondo is not just the name of a movie star, it’s a verb that represents vitality, charisma, a force of will, it represents super coolness,” Tarantino said, adding that he had been an inspiration for generations.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and Yiming Woo; writing by Matthieu Protard and Ingrid Melander; editing by Philippa Fletcher)