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  • Writer's pictureeclectic Stefan

Jean-Paul Belmondo 9 April 1933–6 September 2021:”He left us breathless”

A tribute to Jean-Paul Belmondo

9 April 1933--6 September 2021

“I may not be a pin-up, but I’m one hell of a boxer” Jean-Paul Belmondo

An amended version of Stefan’s article about Godard’s Breathless posted on 30 March 2021

Jean-Paul Belmondo, star of Breathless, dies aged 88

“Jean-Paul Belmondo, the French actor who shot to international fame in Jean-Luc Godard’s revolutionary new wave classic Breathless, has died aged 88. The actor’s
Belmondo – nicknamed Bébel by French audiences – became one of the country’s biggest box-office stars in the 60s and 70s, his battered-looking face a contrast to the chiselled features of his rival and sometime-collaborator Alain Delon. Like Delon, Belmondo was a key figure of the outstanding generation of European film-making of the period, with the series of films he made with Godard – which included A Woman Is a Woman and Pierrot le Fou – making an indelible mark.
Born in 1933 in the well-to-do Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, son of “pied-noir” sculptor Paul Belmondo, Belmondo attended a string of elite private schools but did poorly. He showed more interest in sport, and embarked on a brief amateur boxing career as a teenager. After contracting tuberculosis, he became interested in performing, and applied to the elite National Academy of Dramatic Arts, eventually gaining a place in 1952.”
from The Guardian by Andrew Pulver, 7 September 2021 READ: Andrew Pulver‘s Full Article

Breathless Official Trailer (Studio Canal)

Breathless is a film noir detective story. Petty criminal Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is a narcissist and an opportunist. His fortunes change when he shoots and kills a motorcycle cop. Belmondo seeks out his paramour, Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg), who works for the New York Herald Tribune in Paris, without telling her that he is wanted by the police for murder. She is equally narcissistic. Their actions and behaviours are seen through a lens of self-absorption.

Poiccard (Belmondo) and Franchini (Seberg)

Poiccard only thinks of himself and his immediate needs. He steals impulsively from people he loosely calls friends. He is less concerned with the implications of his actions and their effects on others than his self-indulgence.

The detective story and Poiccard's attempts to evade capture by the police is subsumed by the narcissistic behaviour of the protagonists and their disregard for social norms.

Breathless is often cited for the jump cuts that are scattered throughout the film. But it is more than the fast-paced editing and jump cuts that distinguish Breathless as a groundbreaking feature film.

Director Jean-Luc Godard

“Charm is the ability to make others forget that you look as you do”. Jean-Paul Belmondo

From Roger Ebert’s Review July 20, 2003”

“Modern movies begin here, with Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" in 1960. No debut film since Citizen Kane in 1942 has been as influential. It is dutifully repeated that Godard's technique of "jump cuts" is the great breakthrough, but startling as they were, they were actually an afterthought, and what is most revolutionary about the movie is its headlong pacing, its cool detachment, its dismissal of authority, and the way its narcissistic young heroes are obsessed with themselves and oblivious to the larger society.

Read Roger Ebert’s Full Review:

Even for the non-smokers in the audience, when you’ve finished watching Breathless, you’ll either feel like lighting up a cigarette or whacking on a nicotine patch. The cigarette is ubiquitous in Breathless.

My summary of the changes brought about by the French New Wave and film theorists and directors such as Godard, Truffaut, and Chabrol is that they turned to filmmaking as a way to put into practice their theories about the nature of filmmaking. Their films were visual essays exemplifying their film theories.

But the final word about Godard’s film style I will leave to Godard himself. This quote epitomises his critical approach and overview of filmmaking:

“A film should have a beginning, a middle and an end,

but not necessarily in that order.”



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