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Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932)


You may begin holding your breath
You may begin holding your breath

Genre: Comedy (France)

Starring: Michel Simon (The Bitch • L'Atalante), Charles Granval (Pépé le Moko)

Directed By: Jean Renoir (The Rules of the Game • The Human Beast)

Overview: A homeless man attempts suicide. A bookstore owner saves his life. Boudu however, is far from thankful.

For a long time I've looked forward to Boudu Saved From Drowning. First, it's directed by Jean Renoir. That name has a distinct weight, and with his incredible direction of The Rules Of The Game, I expected greatness. Granted, there's 10 Renoir films separating Boudu from The Rules, but after having seen Renoir's La Chienne (1931), another comedy also starring Michel Simon, and loving that to pieces, I was most definitely stoked for another wave of 30s French entertainment. Imagine my surprise when Boudu Saved From Drowning was nothing more that an overdrawn character study.

First we have Priape Boudu, a hapless, homeless man who, seemingly on a whim, decides to up and launch himself in the river. Watching him drop into the drink is the passionate hedonist Mr Lestingois. Lestingois saves him from drowning, hence the title, and from there Lestingois does a variety of good deeds for Boudu: feeding him, clothing him, paying for his barber and letting him sleep under his roof. In exchange, Boudu proves to Lestingois and the audience exactly why he's a bum in a fashion that's stupid and aimless and rude.

In the end Boudu Saved From Drowning isn't really a Comedy, isn't really a Drama, and the lion's share of the story revolves mostly around watching a goofy, wacky madman make mischief, and rather that having a moral lesson we can appreciate, Boudu chooses not to follow what could have been an enjoyable trip about hypocrisy, class differences or societal mores. Boudu Saved From Drowning gives us instead 85 minutes of wonder as to where the story is going and a conclusion that fizzles.

Whoa there Boudu! This ain't that kind of Paris!
Whoa there Boudu! This ain't that kind of Paris!

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 7 Script: 5 Plot: 4 Mood: 6

Overall Rating: 60% (Didn't Save Me From Being Boredou)

Explain to me again why I needed to see this before I died? Just because it's Renoir? Please! 

| | | | |

Yeah, I'm forced to agree. I kept waiting for Renoir to do something with this potentially fascinating character, and he never did. C'est la vie.

Squish, you saw the beginning of the film right? With the puppet show? It stated (in a comical fashion) that the film had no moral and it was neither a comedy or a drama, and I watched the film with that in mind. I loved it, the film is about a homeless man who comes across as crude and ill-mannered but who has enough impact on the family that "saved" him, that they grow to love him, but Boudou grows bored of the bourgeois existence and decides to "drown" himself back into his old life. I found that to be a very interesting critique on middle class life that I think you may have missed: you should take a look again.

It's La Chienne that starts with the puppet show. 

This starts with a puppet show too then!

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