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Remembering Jean-Paul Belmondo, the Suave French Film Icon Who Inspired Spielberg and Tarantino Alike

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Peter Debruge Chief Film CriticIf Jean-Paul Belmondo had gotten his way, he would have been a stage actor. He applied to the Conservatoire de Paris three times before the illustrious drama school accepted him and spent the 1950s trying to launch a theater career.Lucky for world cinema, Belmondo had greater success on screen, thanks to his role in 1960’s “Breathless,” the movie that launched the French New Wave — and instantly rendered everything Hollywood had been doing old-fashioned.

In “Breathless,” Belmondo wasn’t playing a gangster so much as someone who had seen too many gangster movies, a self-styled tough guy who took Humphrey Bogart as his model.

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