Indie Focus: Belmondo returns (sort of) to L.A.


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‘I wish I was Jean-Paul Belmondo. I always have.’

So said Ian Birnie, director of the film department at LACMA, as an introduction to Friday night’s screening of Francois Truffaut’s 1969 film ‘Mississippi Mermaid.’ It had been announced earlier in the week that the screening would be introduced by the 76-year-old Belmondo, star of such films as ‘Breathless,’ ‘Leon Morin, Priest,’ ‘The Finger Man’ and ‘Pierrot le fou.’

Birnie went on to say that everyone on staff was ‘sad and disappointed’ that Belmondo could not be there, but noted that the actor had suffered a stroke a few years ago and has been in shaky health ever since.


Mathieu Fournet, executive director of the film and TV office of the consulate general of France in Los Angeles, then added that he had spoken to Belmondo earlier in the day. ‘He’s feeling sick tonight and is extremely tired,’ said Fournet. ‘He needs to rest.’

Belmondo has come to Los Angeles to receive a career achievement award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. Fournet noted that Belmondo’s trip is his first visit to Los Angeles in 20 years.

As a testament to Belmondo’s ongoing influence, in the current film ‘Youth In Revolt’ a character played by Michael Cera adopts a rebellious alter-ego to impress a girl who considers Belmondo the epitome of stylish cool. Cera was spotted in the audience on Friday night.

The theater was not 100% sold out, but was extremely full, with only the last few rows not filled up. While the crowd seemed disappointed at the news that Belmondo wouldn’t be there -- signs had been posted outside the theater and at the box-office windows, so people knew before Birnie’s introduction -- the movie, a playful, suspenseful romance co-starring Catherine Deneuve, seemed to win them over. After a moment were Belmondo shimmied freehand up the front of a three-story building in a single shot the crowd burst into applause. From his sickbed somewhere in Los Angeles, Belmondo may have even sensed their cheers.

-- Mark Olsen