Paris (dpa) – Laid back, extravagant and fearless: Jean-Paul Belmondo has fascinated the greatest directors of directing in France. Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Sautet, François Truffaut and Philippe de Broca fought for the young man in tight jeans and a tight jacket.

He made cinema history with films such as “Breathless”, “The Secret of the False Bride” and “Adventure in Rio”. Belmondo died at the age of 88. He bequeathed more than 80 films to his posterity – and the image of a knight with a broad smile and the face of a crumpled boxer.

An overnight star in 1959

Heartbreaker, daredevil, rebel: with “Breathless” in 1959, Jean-Luc Godard made Belmondo, then 26, a star overnight. The Nouvelle Vague film movement, which was particularly successful in turning its back on commercial cinema in the 1960s, set new cinematic standards with an unconventional narrative structure. The film becomes a masterpiece and Belmondo becomes the figurehead of the cinema rebels, including Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer.

In “Breathless”, Belmondo plays the murderous police officer Michel, who is betrayed by his girlfriend. In the crime drama with which Godard celebrates the American gangster film and Humphrey Bogart, he embodies the spirit of anarchism: cool, laid back, outrageous and existentialist.

The way he rolls the cigarette between his fingers, pulls his hat to his forehead, his determined gait, the superior smile and the way he strokes his Bogart-style thumb over his bulging lip: Belmondo has also depressed the movies with gestures. and look at his stamp at.

Willingly crooks and crooks

“Breathless” showed early on his talent as an interpreter of crooks and gangsters. This is how Claude Sautet brought him in “La Panthère rushes” in front of the camera as a young gangster and henchman. In “The Devil in the White Vest”, Jean-Pierre Melville lets him play the role of a police spy. François Truffaut shot “The Secret of the False Bride” and Jacques Deray “Borsalino” with him.

But Belmondo was versatile. In 1960, in Peter Brook’s “Hours of Tenderness”, he proved that melancholy and vulnerability suited him as well. Philippe de Broca highlighted the adventurer and action hero in “Cartouche, the bandit” and in “Aventure à Rio”.

His variety of roles and uninterrupted expressiveness make him one of the most extraordinary actors of his generation for Melville. His eternal rival was Alain Delon. But the handsome boy did not come close to the comedic talent of Belmondo. The French affectionately called Belmondo “Bébel”. There was no nickname for Delon.

Risky head and collar

In the 1970s, the well-trained actor began to distinguish himself more and more as a comedian and action star. He also risked his head and neck, as he did in most films without a double. Intrepid, he climbed rope ladders to helicopters and jumped over moving trains. When he injured his head in a stunt in “The Boss,” he put an end to his rampant ventures. He was 52 at the time.

Belmondo was combat proof. Not only did the cinema teach him that. Professional boxer, the son of a Parisian sculptor had made his way through the traveling theater to the Olympus of cinema – to fall back to earth in the 1980s. When the cinema turned away from him, he returned to its beginnings, the theater. In 1991, he finally bought his own theater in Paris, thus realizing a childhood dream. Belmondo has appeared in over 40 roles.

The workhorse had to take hits not only in front of the camera. In November 1999, he suffered a heart attack on stage in Brest, western France, and a stroke in August 2001 in Corsica. Her four children come from relationships with the dancers Elodie Constantin and Nathalie Tardivel. His affair with Barbara Gandolfi, who was around 40 years his junior, ended in 2012 after four years of separation.

“Become immortal – then die,” Belmondo said in “Breathless”. The film lasts a little less than ninety minutes. But he made Belmondo a legend.