Adieu, Jean-Paul Belmondo!

French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo died on Monday aged 88. After starting out in theatre, Belmondo rose to fame in the late 1950s through Jean-Luc Godard's Nouvelle Vague films. Later, he turned to comedies and action films that topped box office charts all over Europe. Commentators pay tribute above all to the versatility of the man known and loved as "Bébel".

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Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Charmer and heartthrob

Belmondo was perhaps the most popular of all French film stars, writes Jana Machalická, culture editor at Lidové noviny:

“He was a giant of his kind, much like Alain Delon, who lives on as one of the last 'sacred monsters' of French cinema. Faced with the news of his death, everyone aged over 45 must feel sadness at the end of an era. We loved his films, even if they were not gems of cinematography. Belmondo's energy, charm and mischievousness were simply enchanting. But above all he was a very good actor, not only in the works that made him popular but also in those in which he was more than the youthful rebel. Even in his late films he made women in particular adore him.”

Libération (FR) /

How Bébel conquered hearts

Libération explains what made the audiences' darling so unique:

“Why did Jean-Paul Belmondo become the embodiment of French stardom? The answer lies not only in his trademark common touch. That doesn't do him justice. So one is tempted to say that Belmondo became Belmondo as an actor of Godard, of the Nouvelle Vague, of films like Breathless or Pierrot le Fou. ... This is tempting, but also wrong. The answer to the question 'Why Belmondo?' is based on a combination of both elements, on his double career of auteur and trash films: his permanent insouciance. So natural. And so inimitable.”

De Standaard (BE) /

A strange metamorphosis

For De Standaard too, it was above all Belmondo's metamorphosis from critics' darling to blockbuster star that makes him such an extraordinary figure in cinema history:

“The star of acclaimed arthouse films opted for big money and popularity. ... His films became a genre of their own, a brand, audiences loved them. Together with Louis de Funès and Alain Delon, Belmondo formed part of a French trio that filled cinemas all over Europe. What is losing a little artistic kudos in comparison? The critics cursed him for wasting his talent, while Belmondo developed a hatred for the 'snobbish' press. Yet both depended on each other.”