- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CANNES, FRANCE (AP) - The Cannes Film Festival paid tribute Tuesday to actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, icon of the French New Wave and one of the country’s most famous stars.

Cannes president Gilles Jacob presented the 78-year-old performer with a Palme d’Or, the festival’s top prize, in honor of his 50-year career.

Belmondo gained fame in 1960 as the dapper, chain-smoking hoodlum who charms newspaper seller Jean Seberg in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless.”

His expressive features and cocky charm made him one of Europe’s most famous faces. He went on to star in Godard’s “Pierrot Le Fou,” Francois Truffaut’s “Mississippi Mermaid” and other ‘60s classics, but has worked sporadically since suffering a stroke in 2001.

The actor walked slowly and used a cane as he entered a Cannes cinema auditorium to raucous applause, cheers and shouts.

“I am very moved by this honor, which I’ve no right to,” Belmondo said.

Friends and fans were attending the premiere of a documentary _ “Belmondo, The Career” _ followed by a celebratory dinner and party.

Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux told the audience, among them more than two dozen of Belmondo’s cinema colleagues including Claude Lalouche, actor Jean Rochefort and actress Claudia Cardinale, that Belmondo had long resisted the festival’s attempt to honor him but was finally persuaded to accept.

Gilles and Fremaux praised Belmondo’s “range and personal charisma, the precision of his acting, his cocky wit.”

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