France pays national tribute to New Wave film icon Belmondo

Lying in condition as thousands parade in front of his coffin and a speech from the president: such were the rare honors prepared Thursday for actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, who died this week at the age of 88.

France has been mourning the passing of Belmondo, an icon of New Wave action movies and cinema, who passed away on Monday.

Politicians, celebrities and sports stars were among the thousands of people who were supposed to attend the rare ceremony at Les Invalides in Paris, where President Emmanuel Macron was supposed to deliver a speech in the late afternoon.

Thousands more were expected to gather outside to watch the service on giant screens set up for the occasion, before being admitted for a final look at the beloved star, known simply as “Bebel” in France.

The last time such a tribute was held was for former President Jacques Chirac in 2019.

“It’s important to me to be here,” said 66-year-old retired Brigitte Ratou, one of the first to arrive Thursday.

“It’s like saying goodbye to an old partner, someone who has been there since my teens.”

The funeral will be held with close family members on Friday.

Belmondo first rose to prominence as part of the New Wave film movement with films such as Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless” and “Pierrot Le Fou,” which helped define the French style in the international imagination.

He then became a household name, starring in 80 films covering a multitude of genres, including comedies and thrillers.

Belmondo was also often called “Le Magnifique” (The Magnificent), after a 1970s secret agent satire in which he starred.

“He will always be The Magnificent,” Macron tweeted on Monday.

Calling Belmondo “a national treasure”, Macron added: “We all recognized ourselves in him.”


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