A new print of Breathless — the iconic 1960 movie by French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard — is going to be shown at the Film Forum here in Manhattan, starting tonight, in honor of the classic film's 50th anniversary, and I'm hoping to get over there to see it.
Although perhaps I should stay home and watch it alone on DVD, rather than being tempted to pull a Pee-wee Herman. Because the star of the show, one Jean-Paul Belmondo, just totally sexes up the screen. When he kisses his American girlfriend (played by Jean Seberg), you can just about feel the lips on your skin. And when he's hanging out with his shirt off, you really want to feel that.
1) Jean-Paul Belmondo, above.
Oooh la la. Breathless, indeed.
Belmondo makes me want to rip his clothes off. Or my own.
2) In Breathless, the Belmondo character idolizes — and styles himself after — one of the best-loved American actors of all time: Humphrey Bogart. If you "don't get" the Bogart attraction, please check out Casablanca (if you haven't already) and get back to me. There's a reason that movie always tops off any decent best film list; it's a suspenseful drama, full of romance and intrigue, but it would be nothing without Bogie.
3) After Bogie, we got Brando: the man many critics consider the greatest actor in motion picture history . He does seem to inhabit his roles more deeply than just about anyone else I can think of, particularly in the movies he is best known for: 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire, 1954's On the Waterfront (which gave us the oft-quoted line "I coulda been a contender!"), and 1972's Last Tango in Paris, in which he uses butter a lubricant. Watching his early flicks, I kinda wish he would inhabit me.
4) But back to the Frenchies of 1960: Let us not forget Alain Delon. Though he grew up in France, some of the biggest movies he starred in were made by Italian directors. When he plays the good brother and loyal boyfriend in Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers (1960), you want to go steady with him. When he plays a cocksure stockbroker in Antonioni's 1962 L'Eclisse, you want to run back to his place during your lunch hour for a tryst. He also had the lead role in Purple Noon, an earlier version of The Talented Mr. Ripley. And he had an affair with Nico, the singer best known for collaborating with The Velvet Underground.
5) Delon was sometimes called the French James Dean. And I do feel compelled to put that dude on this list because he is an international heartthrob and an enduring icon — I know that — but I gotta say, he doesn't really do it for me. Although maybe it's just that I didn't love the movies he was in during his too-brief career, because clearly, the dude was hot.
He actually looks a lot like Brad Pitt, doesn't he?
6) Another everlasting heartthrob came to the attention of international audiences in 1960. That was the year that Marcello Mastroianni, the face of Italian neorealism, was on the big screen, holding down the starring role in Fellini's classic La Dolce Vita. Mastroianni, who'd started acting about twelve years earlier, while in his twenties, went on to star in more Fellini movies, including one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time, 8 1/2; he also appeared in a movie by Visconti (White Nights), one by Antonioni (La Notte), and a few by another big name in Italian neorealism, Vittorio De Sica. In more than 14 movies, Mastroianni was paired with Sophia Loren. No matter what role he plays, Marcello is the guy you want to take with you to a wedding, a dinner party, or on a long weekend trip; there is something mischievous, brooding, witty, and complicated about him, no matter what role he plays, that just makes him fascinating. Plus: that face!
7) We're not out of the '60s yet, kids, although with the year 1967, we come stateside ... to Paul Newman. That's the year the movie he is perhaps best known for, Cool Hand Luke, came out, and if you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor. It's one of my favorites, and manages to be both funny and heartbreaking, very smart and very gripping. Plus: a young Newman is in it, playing a ne'er-do-well who goes to jail, and his shirt comes off a lot in the prison scenes.
8) The next now-classic film that Newman was in, 1969's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, co-starred another of movie history's biggest heartthrobs: Robert Redford, that beautiful man.
(Redford, left, and Newman, as Sundance and Butch)
9) I'm gonna skip over a lot of the big names of the '70s, like Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson. I'm going to skip over the big names of the '80s, like Patrick Swayze and Matt Dillon. I'm going to skip Brad Pitt (again) and some of the other players who began coming of age in the '90s, especially Ed Norton (whom I think is not the least bit handsome, nor do I find him especially compelling as an actor).
I think the hottest actor of the '90s was ... Hugh Grant.
Tell me I've watched too many romantic comedies and I would swear up and down that that's not true. What is true, however, is that just about every romantic comedy I've seen has starred Hugh. So maybe that has messed with my mind. But I don't care! Because it feels good to love Hugh! That adorably crinkly face! The floppy hair! I think Bridget Jones is probably still a little bummed she only ended up with Colin Firth, snowy kiss aside.
10) The hottest man in cinema of the '00s? Without a doubt, Matt Damon. (Though being a cougar, I do also have a big crush on Ashton. But being a writer, I do not have enough money for the same kind of plastic surgeries Demi can afford.) Nobody else acting today holds a candle to Matt Damon in the hot category. Maybe not in the talent category, either. And he married a bartender who'd already had a baby with another man! There is hope for us all.