Jean-Paul Belmondo, icon of French New Wave cinema, dies at 88

With his devil-may-care charm, Jean-Paul Belmondo, who has died aged 88, was the poster boy of the New Wave, France's James Dean and Humphrey Bogart rolled into one irresistible man.

Jean-Paul Belmondo, icon of French New Wave cinema, dies at 88
In 1977, French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo and US actress Raquel Welch during the filming of "Animal" directed by Claude Zidi in Paris. Photo: AFP.

With his boxer’s physique and broken nose, his restless insouciance chimed with the mould-breaking French cinema of the 1960s.

Director Jean-Luc Godard, the New Wave’s brilliant enfant terrible, cast Belmondo in his break-out role as a doomed thug who falls in love with the Jean Seberg’s pixie-like American in Paris in “Breathless” (1961).

The film floored critics and audiences worldwide and, with Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows”, changed the history of cinema.

Actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (L), French tough-guy, beginner boxer, one of France’s future screen stars and a symbol of 1960s New Wave cinema, dodges a blow during a box match in the 1960s in Paris. Photo: AFP.

Time magazine in 1964 declared Belmondo the face of modern France. “The Tricolour, a snifter of cognac, a flaring hem – these have been demoted to secondary symbols of France,” it said.

“The primary symbol is an image of a young man slouching in a cafe chair… he is Jean-Paul Belmondo – the natural son of the Existentialist conception, standing for everything and nothing at 738 mph.”

A boxer’s charm

Yet Belmondo was far from a sauve intellectual and spent most of his career in he-man roles that played on his raw sex appeal.

Despite making his name as a charming gangster, the actor was brought up in the bourgeois Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, the son of a renowned sculptor, Paul Belmondo.

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Monique Hennessy perform parts in 1962 French director Jean-Pierre Melville movie “Le Doulos”. Photo: AFP.

Born in 1933, he performed poorly at school during the war but was a talented boxer, winning three straight round-one knockouts in a brief amateur career.

He then trained at the National Conservatory of Dramatic Art.

His first foray into cinema in 1957 in the forgettable comedy “On Foot, On Horse and On Wheels”, ended up on the cutting-room floor.

But undeterred Belmondo went on to work with some of the most talented directors of his generation, making a trio of films with Godard, and then with Truffaut, Alain Resnais, Louis Malle and Jean-Pierre Melville.

Truffaut described him as “the most complete European actor” of his generation.

Action hero

The charmer was often cast opposite glamorous women, from Catherine Deneuve and Sophia Loren to Claudia Cardinale in the period romp “Cartouche”, and he constantly reworked his persona in diverse roles.

But from the 1970s he took on more bankable action movies in which he performed his own stunts.

Jean-Paul Belmondo smiles at the photographer in May 1974 during Cannes Film Festival. Photo: AFP.

Swashbuckling comic adventure films and farces such as “Swords of Blood” (1962) and the Oscar-nominated “That Man from Rio” (1964) introduced Belmondo to legions of new fans across the globe.

He enjoyed the mix of arthouse and more box office-friendly fare, saying, “It is like life. One day you laugh, the next you cry.”

Belmondo also briefly – and forgettably – ventured across the Atlantic for two English-language films, “Is Paris Burning?” in 1966 and the spoof James Bond “Casino Royale” a year later.

Cesar snub

In the 1980s Belmondo experimented with more mature dramatic roles, earning a French Oscar, a Cesar, for Claude Lelouch’s “Itinerary of a Spoiled Child” in 1988 about a foundling raised in a circus.

But he rejected the prize because the artist who sculpted the statuette, Cesar Baldaccini, had once disparaged the works of his father.

French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo poses on December 5th, 2016. Photo: JOEL SAGET / AFP.

Twice married and twice divorced he also lived with the ex-Bond actress Ursula Andress for seven years. Belmondo had four children including the racing driver, Paul Belmondo, with his youngest born in 2003 when he was 70.

His eldest daughter, Patricia, died in a fire in 1994.

He suffered a stroke in 2001 while on holiday in Corsica, which affected his speech, sparking a huge outpouring of love for the actor.

It effectively put an end to Belmondo’s career, though he did make one last touching movie as old man whose only consolation was his dog.

Worse was to follow. His final relationship with ex-Playboy model Barbara Gandolfi, who was 42 years his junior, ended in scandal in 2012 with her convicted of swindling the actor out of 200,000 euros.

But in 2016 the Venice film festival awarded him a Golden Lion for lifetime’s achievement.

“I never think about my past,” he told reporters there. “Forward, forward, forward.”

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Everything you need to know about France’s 2022 summer sales

In France, you can only shop the best deals twice a year - during the soldes. Here is everything you need to know about this year's summer sales.

Everything you need to know about France's 2022 summer sales

They happen twice a year – Each year, France has two soldes periods: one in the winter, usually starting January, and another in the summer, usually starting in June.

This summer, the soldes will start on Wednesday, June 22nd in most parts of France and run for four weeks, so even though you might be tempted to go on the first day, keep in mind they’ll be going on for a while.

They are progressive, so items will be continuously marked down as the soldes wear on. If you wait, you are risking that your favourite t-shirt might sell out quickly, but if you’re lucky it might end up marked down even further.

During 2020 and 2021 the government altered sales dates and time periods to help shops cope with closures and lockdowns, but now we’re back to the usual timetable.

This is the only time stores can have “sales” – Technically, the soldes are the only time that stores are allowed to have sales, but the definition of ‘sale’ is important.

Basically, the French government qualifies a ‘solde‘ as the store selling an item for less than they purchased it for.

During the rest of the year discounting is allowed in certain circumstances, so you might see promotions or vente privée (private sales, usually short-term events aimed at regular customers or loyalty-card holders) throughout the year.

In these situations the stores might be selling items for less than their original price, but they are not permitted to sell the item for less than they bought it for. 

Shops are also permitted to have closing-down sales if they are shutting down, or closing temporarily for refurbishment.

They are strictly regulated by the French government – Everything from how long the soldes go for to the consumer protection rules that apply to the very definition of ‘solde’ is regulated by the French government, and the main purpose of this is to protect small independent businesses which might not be able to offer the same level of discounts as the big chains and multi-national companies.

Whether you shop in person or online, the same rules apply.

As a consumer, you still have the same rights as non-sales times regarding broken or malfunctioning items – meaning you ought to be entitled to a refund if the item has not been expressly indicated as faulty. The French term is vice caché, referring to discovering a defect after purchase.

On top of that, stores must be clear about which items are reduced and which are not – and must display the original price on the label as well as the sale price and percentage discount. 

READ MORE: Your consumer rights for French sales

They started in the 19th century – France’s soldes started in the 19th century, alongside the growth of department stores who had the need to regularly renew their stock – and get rid of leftover items.

Simon Mannoury, who founded the first Parisian department store “Petit Saint-Thomas” in 1830, came up with the idea.

Funnily enough, this department store actually is the ancestor for the famous department store Le Bon Marché. His goal was to sell off the previous season’s unsold stock in order to replace it with new products.

In order to do this, Mannoury offered heavy discounts to sell as much merchandise as possible in a limited time.

The soldes start at different times depending on where you live – The sales start at the same time across most of mainland France, but there are exceptions for overseas France and certain départements, usually those along the border.

France’s finance ministry allows for the sales to start at different times based on local economies and tourist seasons. 

For the summer 2022 sales only two parts of metropolitan France have different dates; Alpes-Maritimes sales run from July 6th to August 2nd, while on the island of Corsica they run from July 13th to August 9th.

In France’s overseas territories the sales are held later in the year.

You might qualify for a tax rebate – If you are resident outside the EU, you might be eligible for a tax rebate on your sales purchases.

If you spend at least €100 in one store, then you qualify. You should hold onto your receipt and tell the cashier you plan to use a tax rebate so they can give you the necessary documentation (a duty-free slip).

Then when you are leaving you can find the kiosk at the station or airport dedicated to tax rebates (détaxe) and file prior to leaving France. For more information read HERE