Boudu Saved from Drowning View large image

Film Details

Directed by: Jean Renoir

Produced: 1932

Countries & Regions: France

DVD Details

Certificate: PG

Studio: Park Circus

Length: 81 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 4 April 2011

Cat No: PC0029

Extras:
Languages(s): French
Subtitles: English
Interactive Menu
Scene Access

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Boudu Saved from Drowning

Cast: Jean Daste , Michel Simon , Charles Granval , Marcelle Hainia , Severine Lerczinska , Jean Gehret

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1930s comedy starring Michel Simon as Boudu, a tramp saved from drowning in the Seine by a wealthy bookseller, who provides him shelter... Read More

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1930s comedy starring Michel Simon as Boudu, a tramp saved from drowning in the Seine by a wealthy bookseller, who provides him shelter in his bourgeois household. The unruly vagrant causes havoc in this civilised environment, seducing the bookseller’s wife and his mistress, as well as striking it lucky in the lottery. Having brought anarchy to the middle class family, he eventually begins to pine for his old life and decides to return to the freedom of the river. This classic of French cinema was directed by Jean Renoir, and later remade in Hollywood as ’Down and Out in Beverly Hills’ (1986).

The film is from another era, like the Paris that we see in the background. It is leisurely, unhurried. There is no ‘meaning’, and the film has no polemical points to make. The story seems improvised, and its pace is casual and unforced.

Renoir invites us into the story with his tramp. The story is as simple as its characters. Boudu the tramp is saved from suicide by Monsieur Lestingois, a bookseller who takes him in to his home and tries to re-create him in his own solid-bourgeois image. Bearded and long-haired, this precursor of all hippies just wants to be left alone. He shows what the middle classes give up for respectability, spilling wine on the table, leaving water running in the sink, wiping his shoes on the bedspread. Pauline Kael says there is some disorderly malice in him – a refusal to be clean and responsible - that is positively satisfying.

Where the bookseller is inhibited, even unmanned, Boudu seduces both his wife and mistress simply by being himself. Michel Simon’s loose walk, his eyes that don’t communicate, his insouciance and smug self-satisfaction defy those bent on reforming him –instead, he changes them, and how he does so makes the story.

It oozes life and a leisurely unforced humour, and the naturalistic characters, situation and relationships turn out to be totally compelling. The whole thing is done with Renoir’s insouciant genius –as though he is filming a newsreel unfolding before our eyes. The actors are not arranged but found by the camera on the street, in the shop, on the banks of the Seine. One minute they are there; the next they disappear, to reappear casually again later on. Renoir allows his film – and us -to breathe easily and naturally, and the simple act of breathing has rarely proved more enjoyable.

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