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08/08/2016

Breathless

We pay tribute to the great Nouvelle Vague icon and keen Ferrari connoisseur Jean-Paul Belmondo

Jean-Paul Belmondo has always been a man of immaculate taste. Bar a few stinkers in the 1970s, the French actor appeared in some of the greatest films of post-war European cinema, creating in the process a distinctly Gallic take on the Hollywood tough guy: part street-corner hoodlum, part quirky existential hero.

 

Together with his close friend and occasional co-star Alain Delon, Belmondo was a new kind of leading man for a new kind of age. The two also shared a love of fast cars (one that Belmondo would later pass on to his son Paul, who raced for the March and Pacific Grand Prix Formula One teams in the 1990s) and both had a particular love for the Prancing Horse.

 Jean-Paul Belmondo on the set of Borsalino, 1969  Photo: Getty Images

Ferrari was very much the car of choice for the Nouvelle Vague. Much like the actors and film-makers who drove them, Maranello models signified freedom, a sense of adventure and of youthful energy.

 

Director Roger Vadim owned a 1959 250 GT California Spider (one of only 47 built), while his ex-wife Brigitte Bardot would bomb around the streets of Saint-Tropez in her own bright red 1958 250 GT LWB California Spider.

 Belmondo in a 1968 Paris Match photo shoot  Photo: Getty Images

Ursula Andress once recalled how, when she first started her seven-year relationship with Belmondo, she would always listen out for the sound of the Frenchman’s Ferrari 250 GT SWB, as he drove through the mountains on his way to her home in Bern.

 

Next month, the actor will be honoured at the Venice International Film Festival with a Golden Lion lifetime achievement award. The 83-year-old was praised in an official statement for his irresistible charm and extraordinary versatility; virtues that could just as easily be applied to his beloved Ferraris.

 The actor during a reception at Marseille City Hall earlier this year  Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images

Jean-Paul Belmondo, we salute you: a man who has always lit up the screen, whether playing a hardboiled anti-hero, a troubled young priest, a period-costumed dandy or a daredevil jewel thief (the nine-minute car chase in 1971’s Le Casse is quite magnificently bonkers).

 

And, lest we forget, a man who has always enjoyed life’s finer things. A true Ferrarista, in other words.