But that first decade, with a seamless crossover from the aura of the New Wave to Melville to highly competent action directors (Verneuil, Sautet and Deray), set him up to trade on all that quite well. He managed his "star career" quite well, and ironically enough was something of a catalyst for his manager, Rene Chateau, to begin a second career as a collector of rare French movies from the "cinema de papa" era that Belmondo's most famous artistic collaborators dismissed out of hand.
It's interesting to look at the early posters for a film that the pre-BREATHLESS Belmondo appeared in along with a boatload of young, fresh French faces in 1958--LES TRICHEURS, directed by Marcel Carné, a film about the "feckless youth" who would swamp theatre screens in the following decade (in France and elsewhere). The older pros were betting on more conventionally handsome actors such as Jacques Charrier and Laurent Terzieff, who receive larger head shots amongst the film's throng of youth. It takes you a bit of work to pick out Belmondo...but he does make an unusual impression in Carne's film that some of the New Wave directors sensed and would put to work for them. Whatever else one might want to say about Belmondo, he clearly was able to emerge from that "brat pack" in a very big way--big enough that many arthouse theaters will robotically program BREATHLESS on their schedules for 4-6 weeks this fall.