Jean-Paul Belmondo, the rugged actor whose disdainful eyes, boxer’s nose, sensual lips and cynical outlook made him the idolized personification of youthful alienation in the French New Wave, most notably in his classic performance as an existential killer in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless,” died on Monday at his home in Paris. He was 88.
His death was confirmed by the office of his lawyer, Michel Godest. No cause was given.
Like Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando and James Dean — three American actors to whom he was frequently compared — Mr. Belmondo established his reputation playing tough, unsentimental, even antisocial characters who were cut adrift from bourgeois society. Later, as one of France’s leading stars, he took more crowd-pleasing roles, but without entirely surrendering his magnetic brashness.
Like Bogart, Mr. Belmondo brought craggy features and sometimes seething anger to the screen, a realistic counterpoint to more conventionally handsome romantic stars. Like Dean, he became one of the most widely imitated pop culture figures of his era. And like Brando, he was often dismissive of pretentiousness and self-importance among filmmakers.
“No actor since James Dean has inspired quite such intense identification,” Eugene Archer wrote in The New York Times in 1965. “Dean evoked the rebellious adolescent impulse, as fierce as it was gratuitous, a violent outgrowth of the frustrations of the modern world. Belmondo is a later manifestation of youthful rejection — and more disturbing. His disengagement from a society his parents made is total. He accepts corruption with a cynical smile, not even bothering to struggle. He is out entirely for himself, to get whatever he can, while he can. The Belmondo type is capable of anything.”
His leading role in “À bout de
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