For generations of French filmgoers and lovers of international cinema, few actors defined the Gallic male on screen more succinctly than Jean-Paul Belmondo. Though rugged and unconventionally handsome, Belmondo's innate charm and physicality captured the world's attention with his turn as a doomed small-time crook in Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" (1960), one of the vanguards of the French New Wave. The film's global popularity minted him as an icon of cinematic cool, an image he would underscore for the next four decades in arthouse-minded projects like Godard's "Pierrot le Fou" (1965) and Francois Truffaut's "Mississippi Mermaid" (1969). At the same time, he proved himself as a capable and highly athletic action star, often providing his own daring stunts in "That Man from Rio" (1964), "Borsalino" (1970) and "The Professional" (1981). He returned to stage work and more sedate fare in the late 1980s and '90s, earning a Cesar for "Itinéraire d'un enfant gâté" (1988) and high praise for a modern-day take on "Les Misérables" (1995) before suffering a paralyzing stroke. Though physically limited, he returned to features in 2008 for the melancholy "A Man and His Dog" (2008). Though no longer the robust, roguish figure of his youth, Belmondo's inherent strength and spirit remained intact, providing an inspiring reminder of why he remained a French national treasure for nearly half a century.