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Movie Poster of the Week: The Illustrated Jean-Paul Belmondo

The many faces in movie posters of the late, great French cinema icon.
Adrian Curry
Above: detail from the Argentinian poster for Magnet of Doom (Jean-Pierre Melville, France, 1963). Artist unknown.
Jean-Paul Belmondo, the great French movie star who died last week at the age of 88, had a marvelous face. He wasn’t a classic matinee idol like his friend and compatriot Alain Delon (in the New York Times review of Belmondo’s break-out, and still most famous, role in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, Bosley Crowther called him “a hypnotically ugly new young man”) but with the combination of his soulful puppy-dog eyes, lopsided boxer’s nose, and luscious feminine lips he could play both hoodlums or heartthrobs (and in Breathless he played both at the same time). A classic tough guy best known outside France for art movies, he was initially synonymous with the angry alienation of the French New Wave and starred in films by Godard, Truffaut, Melville, Malle and Lelouch. But he could play comedy as well as action (he was renowned for doing his own stunts) and was for a while promoted as a French James Bond. By the ’70s and ’80s—when he was in his 40s and 50s—he played mostly action heroes for directors like Georges Lautner, Henri Verneuil and Jacques Deray and he became his own brand: in his posters for his 1980s action movies he is nearly always portrayed toting a big gun beneath the singular name-above-the-title BELMONDO in chunky block serif black letters.
Over his nearly 50 year career Belmondo was drawn and painted by many of the great French and Italian movie poster artists of the time, most notably Jean Mascii, Yves Thos, Sandro Symeoni, Averardo Ciriello and Renato Casaro. He was also memorably, and less realistically, illustrated by Polish designers Jacek Neugebauer and Jerzy Flisak and by the German artists Rolf Goetze and Peter Strausfeld.
Below are some of my favorite illustrated renditions of Belmondo in movie posters presented in chronological order from what may be his first major appearance in a movie poster in Marc Allegret’s 1958 Sunday Encounter, through to perhaps his last great role in Claude Lelouch’s Les Misérables in 1995.
Above: French grande for Sunday Encounter (Marc Allegret, France, 1958).
Above: Italian 2-fogli for Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1960). Art by Sandro Symeoni.
Above: UK quad poster for Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1960). Art by Peter Strausfeld.
Above: 1980 Spanish re-release poster for Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1960). Art by R Bourgine.
Above: French grande for Trapped by Fear (Jacques Dupont, France,1960). Art by Jean Mascii.
Above: French grande for Trapped by Fear (Jacques Dupont, France,1960). Art by Jean Mascii.
Above: Italian 2-fogli for Famous Love Affairs (Michel Boisrond, France, 1961). Art by Giuliano Nistri.
Above: UK quad poster for Léon Morin, Priest (Jean-Pierre Melville, France, 1961). Art by Peter Strausfeld.
Above: Italian locandina for A Man Called Rocca (Jean Becker, France, 1961). Artist unknown.
Above: Italian locandina for A Woman is a Woman (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1961). Art by Sandro Symeoni.
Above: US one sheet for Cartouche aka Swords of Blood (Philippe de Broca, France, 1962). Artist unknown.
Above: Argentinian poster for Magnet of Doom (Jean-Pierre Melville, France, 1963). Artist unknown.
Above: Italian 4-fogli for Magnet of Doom (Jean-Pierre Melville, France, 1963). Art by Averardo Ciriello.
Above: German poster for Backfire (Jean Becker, France, 1964). Artist unknown.
Above: French grande for That Man from Rio (Philippe de Broca, France, 1964). Artist Yves Thos.
Above: French poster for Weekend at Dunkirk (Henri Verneuil, France, 1964) Art by René Ferracci.
Above: Belgian poster for Pierrot le Fou (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1965). Artist unknown.
Above: German poster for Pierrot le Fou (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1965). Art by Rolf Goetze.
Above: US one sheet for Up to His Ears aka Chinese Adventures in China (Philippe de Broca, France, 1965). Artist unknown.
Above: French grande for Up to His Ears aka Chinese Adventures in China (Philippe de Broca, France, 1965). Artist Yves Thos.
Above: Alternative French grande for Up to His Ears aka Chinese Adventures in China (Philippe de Broca, France, 1965). Artist Yves Thos.
Above: 1967 Czech poster for Up to His Ears aka Chinese Adventures in China (Philippe de Broca, France, 1965). Artist Karel Vaca. [A collage rather than an illustration but I had to include this one.]
Above: 1969 Polish poster for Up to His Ears aka Chinese Adventures in China (Philippe de Broca, France, 1965). Art by Jacek Neugebauer.
Above: Italian 2-fogli for The Thief of Paris (Louis Malle, France, 1967). Art by Tino Avelli.
Above: US one sheet for The Brain (Gérard Oury, France, 1969). Artist unknown.
Above: Italian locandina for Love is a Funny Thing (Claude Lelouch, France, 1969). Art by Tino Avelli.
Above: Italian poster for Mississippi Mermaid (François Truffaut, France, 1969). Art by Luciano Crovato. 
Above: Italian locandina for Mississippi Mermaid (François Truffaut, France, 1969). Art by Luciano Crovato. 
Above: Belgian poster for Borsalino (Jacques Deray, France, 1970). Artist unknown.
Above: Polish poster for The Burglars (Henri Verneuil, France, 1971). Art by Jerzy Flisak.
Above: German poster for Hunter Will Get You (Jacques Deray, France, 1976). Art by Renato Casaro.
Above: French grande for Cop or Hood (Georges Lautner, France, 1979). Art by Jean Mascii.
Above: Polish poster for Cop or Hood (Georges Lautner, France, 1979). Artist unknown.
Above: French grande for Le Guignolo (George Lautner, France, 1980). Art by Jean Mascii.
Above: French grande for The Professional (Georges Lautner, France, 1981). Art by Jean Mascii.
Above: Russian poster for The Professional (Georges Lautner, France, 1981). Artist unknown.
Above: French grande for Le Marginal (Jacques Deray, France, 1983). Art by Renato Casaro.
Above: French grande for The Vultures  (Henri Verneuil, France, 1984). Art by Renato Casaro.
Above: German poster for The Vultures (Henri Verneuil, France, 1984). Art by Renato Casaro.
Above: Belgian poster for Happy Easter (Georges Lautner, France, 1984). Art by Renato Casaro.
Above: French grande for Les Miserables (Claude Lelouch, France, 1995). Art by Gil and Michel Jouin.
And, finally, a couple of contemporary renditions of 1960s Belmondo from two of my favorite contemporary movie-obsessed artists: Tony Stella and Nathan Gelgud.
R.I.P. J-P.B.
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