PARIS (AP) France paid tribute on Thursday to film legend Jean-Paul Belmondo, whom President Emmanuel Macron described as the nation’s ordinary man in a solemn tribute that drew applause and tears from fans, stars and the actor’s family.
The ceremony on the site of Napoleon’s last resting place combined military pomp and the emotion of adoring fans. Some 1,000 were allowed into the huge courtyard of the golden domed Invalides monument, while others watched on the big screen from an outside lawn. Fans could also see the coffin on a special night out.
Jean-Paul Belmondo was part of the family, a brother, a cousin, an uncle, an attractive friend, an exceptional father …
The star of the iconic French New Wave film Breathless died on Monday at the age of 88. His death shook the country in mourning for the actor whose crooked boxer’s nose and racy smile made him one of the most recognizable men in the country.
Grief reflected Belmondo’s leading role in the French cultural world and in its living rooms, where families gathered to watch his old films on television.
We loved Jean-Paul Belmondo because he looked like us, says Macron. Jean-Paul Belmondo was a bit (of) each of us, but better. He was the friend everyone wanted to have, ”Macron said.
Telling memorable scenes, the president reviewed Belmondo’s long career over 80 films over six decades. The star has worked with several great French directors. Jean-Luc Godards’ 1960 film Breathless (A Bout de Souffle in its original French title) brought the two men lasting praise.
Belmondo, affectionately known as Bebel, has played roles from thug to cop, thief to priest, Cyrano de Bergerac to steadfast secret agent. He was also a gifted athlete who often did his own stunts.
For his family, Belmondo was even more. With his constant smile and positive attitude, he is an eternal sun, his grandson, Victor, said in a tribute. Have fun with your buddies, he concluded, referring to Belmondo’s friends who have passed away before him.
Many fans inside and outside Les Invalides have donned racy caps like the ones that have come to identify Belmondo, or have concocted outfits to resemble him in his movie roles.
Hats off to the artist because he is really a guy who deserves to be there for him and that we thank him for the panache he had in all his films, said Frédéric Zamparini, 55, in a bizarre costume like the one Belmondo wore in the 1980 French film. Italian comedy Le Guignolo briefs and top hat with red polka dots.
My heart sinks. He was our best ambassador abroad, said longtime fan Lucie Guyot-Bond.
With drumbeats, members of the Republican Guard brought the coffin of the actor draped in a French flag to the courtyard of the Invalides. A portrait of the actor in a cap, a smile and a graying beard stood above the ceremony, accompanied by military troops in full dress.
Prolonged applause erupted at the end of Macron’s speech, and as the coffin was released with the band playing the score Chi Mai, from Belmondo’s 1981 film The Professional.
Farewell, Bebel, said Macron.
The internationally renowned singer Charles Aznavour was also honored at the Invalides after his death in October 2018. Belmondo was among those present at the ceremony.
A private funeral for Belmondo is scheduled for Friday.
Oleg Cetinic in Paris contributed.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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