“The public is always right, even when it is wrong” Jean Paul Belmondo.
On September 6, 2021, Jean-Paul Belmondo passed away at 88 years old surrounded by his loved ones, in his home in Saint Germain des Prés. in the outskirts of Paris, France. He was a gifted actor that played in almost 80 films and delighted us with his unabashed and swaggering smile; in the past few years he kept a low profile after having had a Cerebrovascular accident in the year 2001.
The son of a famous sculptor and a theatre actress, initially he practiced a lot of sports, like football and boxing; in a fight he got a big blow to this nose that he never got fixed. His visual trademark.
When he was a young aspiring actor in Drama School, he was curtly told by an instructor that he was too ugly to look at and that, lacking theatre skills, he would never become a serious actor. Doing morning exercises, he was spotted in a park in Saint Germain des Prés by the film director Jean-Luc Godard who offered him a screening test for his upcoming film, His first role in Godard’s A bout de Souffle, was the official launch of what would later be known as the Nouvelle Vague. In fact Gian Luca, our filmmaker son, plastered our writing space with film posters and to our right, we displayed the one of that great film, source of inspiration of our writings. Here is a screenshot of it.
Belmondo had the spontaneous attitude of a cool guy in front of the camera, which rendered him credible. He had two separate film careers: the art cinema and the commercial venues. He was well known in the 70s and 80s for starring in farcical versions of the super-hero saga, which made us gasp with his amazing acrobatic stunts as he insisted on doing them himself. A famous scene shows him laboriously walking, with extended legs, without any security measures, on the roof of a racing Paris commuter train at 70 km/hour. It was his body standing there, without any stunt help or editing. We also laughed with his politically incorrect impertinent jokes ready to shoot at the sleeve (even women did) One of the very best was Le Magnifique, co-starred with the gorgeous Jacqueline Bisset.
Note. This reproduction was taken from Wikimedia Commons. http://www.affichescinema.com, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8589500
We were, and still are, moved by Le Professionnel, a rather mediocre movie that has the rapturous musical score of Ennio Morricone and the participation of a very young and slim Gerard Dépardieu. In fact, at his funeral in Les Invalides, they used the melancholic notes of Chi mai to honour him.
The 20 Heures newscast of France 2 had a special program that day where many of his colleagues and friends remembered him. One of the most affected by his passing was Alain Delon, who had been the “nominal competitor” in the screen but actually a very good friend outside it; they both starred in Borsalino, one of the most tender, fun movies about the Mafia. It was done with allure.
One of his longstanding friends (sorry but we cannot remember his name) narrated how he had accompanied him to a posh Rehabilitation Center to cure the motor and verbal ACV sequelae. Looking at the garden from his suite balcony, they say many disabled patients being aided by nurses to do their exercises, walk around, being wheeled around, etc. Initially Belmondo told him that he should take him back right away to his home because he would die of anguish in there. He calmed him and convinced him to give it a try. He did. And with so much enthusiasm that the actor was an enthusiastic cheerleader that supported and cheered the progress of other patients.
Belmondo slowly recovered his speech capabilities and was able to walk only with the aid of a cane. He received many honors, including an Honorary César statuette for his acting career in 2017. In these times of generalized human despair, we need more than ever his exemplary love of Dear Life.
On September 9, 2021, all the French authorities, including Président Macron, honored Belmondo with a funeral in the Cour des Invalides, the big esplanade for the fallen French soldiers and sailors; in an adjacent buildings lie the mortal remains of Napoléon Bonaparte , another French treasure.
Countless times you made us dream with your performances that flew us off away, far from routine.
Merci beaucoup Monsieur Le Magnifique!
Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.
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