France pays national tribute to Jean-Paul Belmondo

Lying in state as thousands file past his coffin and a speech by the president: such were the rare honours prepared Thursday for actor Jean-Paul Belmondo after he died this week at the age of 88, France 24 reports.

Politicians, celebrities and sports stars were among the thousand people who  attended the rare ceremony at Les Invalides in Paris, where President Emmanuel Macron made a speech paying tribute to the late icon.

“We love Belmondo because he is like us,” Emmanuel Macron said at the ceremony.

Looking back at Belmondo’s work with New Wave directors François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, the French President described him as an “unparalleled star of French cinema”.

Macron underlined that Belmondo was also an “unforgettable presence” in the work of other groundbreaking French auteurs, such as Jean-Pierre Melville, Alain Resnais and Claude Chabrol.

Belmondo was a “presence with whom we grew older, from film to film”, Macron continued.

Thousands more gathered outside to watch the service on giant screens set up for the occasion, before being admitted for a final glimpse of the beloved star, known simply as “Bebel” in France.

The last time such a homage was staged was for former president Jacques Chirac in 2019.

Belmondo first came to fame as part of the New Wave cinema movement with films like À bout de souffle and Pierrot Le Fou by Jean-Luc Godard that heralded a new, postmodern style and helped define French cool in the international imagination.

He went on to become a household name, acting 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 recognised ourselves in him.”

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