LYON – If anybody doubted the pulling power of Quentin Tarantino in France, they would not be so skeptical after the opening ceremony of Lyon’s 5th Lumiere Festival, a near-unique film event dedicated totally to revivals or re-issues of classics, cult movies and rare restorations.

Tarantino is due to receive the 5th Lumiere Award later this week, following on from Clint Eastwood, Milos Forman, Gerard Depardieu and Ken Loach.

But in town from its get-go, Tarantino lent his rock-star status in France to the opening gala, a hommage to Jean-Paul Belmondo, the star of Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless,” which officially brought down the flag on France’s Nouvelle Vague, which in turn had a huge influence on ‘70s New Hollywood.

Tarantino’s unexpected entry into Lyon’s La Halle Tony Garnier, a concert hall the size of an aircraft hanger which seats 4,416 people, sent spectators into whoops and frissons of excitement.  “The most beautiful surprise of the year,” glowed Lyon newspaper Le Progres today.

Flanked by director Bertrand Tavernier, Lumiere Fest director Thierry Fremaux and a galaxy of French stars, Tarantino bellowed out in more than passable French the official opening of the 52013 Lumiere Festival.

Then he brought the house down in a brief appreciation read out in the presence of Jean-Paul Belmondo.

“In the opening of Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Breathless,’ you see a young actor, in his first film, looking an at poster of a movie star. The movie star is Humphrey Bogart. This young actor is looking at the poster and wishing he were him. That young man was Jean-Paul Belmondo,” Tarantino said to Belmondo.

“But, for the next 20 years, whenever college kids or cinetists put up the poster of a movie star on their wall, the poster was of Jean-Paul Belmondo. Like he did in ‘Breathless,’ we all stare at the poster and wish we were him.”

Tarantino added: “Before there was Jackie Chan doing his own stunts, there was Belmondo. Even his name, Belmondo, it not just the name of a movie star, it’s not just the name of a man, it’s a verb, it’s a verb which represents vitality, charisma, a force of will. It represents super-coolness. That is what the name Belmondo means. All hail him!”