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Boudu Saved from Drowning (Criterion Collection)

Michel Simon , Marcelle Hainia , Jean Renoir    Unrated   DVD

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Product Description


Long before there were hippies, there was, sublimely, Boudu. In 1932 director Jean Renoir and French star Michel Simon, fresh from their early-sound triumph La Chienne, decided to re-team in adapting a stage farce about a derelict rescued from the river by a bookseller and groomed for bourgeois society. The bookseller's idea proves to be disastrous, though working through all the possibilities for disruption and catastrophe is a slow-gathering and hilarious process. Simon always seemed as much force of nature as mere actor, and his and Renoir's inspiration is to make Boudu the vagabond not a satyr or opportunist or noble savage or de facto sociopolitical anarchist, but simply an oversized manchild with no more guile or conscious agenda than the shaggy dog whose sudden defection led him to throw himself into the Seine. If his insistence on leaving a downy-soft bed to sleep in the hall happens to block the door to the maid's room, where his benefactor Lestingois is wont to sneak after the wife's asleep, well, Boudu doesn't really plan it that way. And if he leaves a wet lugie between the pages of a first-edition Balzac, well, they asked him not to spit on the floor, after all!

We can see that the original farce (by René Fauchois) was probably pretty funny to begin with, but Renoir makes of it much, much more. Boudu Saved from Drowning--arguably the first French New Wave film, nearly 30 years before there was a New Wave--is one of those cardinal works in which we can see, and experience anew, a great filmmaker inventing the cinema. Without jettisoning the formal qualities of the theatrical farce, Renoir opens his film to light, fresh air, and the teeming multifariousness of Parisian street life; the denizens of the city become unwitting extras in the movie as Boudu first shambles, then prances, among them. The deep-focus camerawork is exhilarating, but even the gregarious roughness of the production feels right, indeed essential. "I believe that perfection is even dangerous," Renoir remarked of his own movie. "If a film is perfect, the public has nothing to add.... The audience should always be trying to finish a picture, ... fill in the holes which we didn't fill." Collaborating on Boudu is a glorious experience. --Richard T. Jameson

Product Description

After well-to-do bookseller Edouard Lestingois (Charles Granval) rescues a tramp from a suicidal plunge into the Seine, his family adopts the bum and dedicates itself to reforming him. The irrepressible Boudu (Michel Simon) shows his gratitude by shaking the household to its foundations, challenging the hidebound principles of his hosts and seducing them with his anarchic charm. With Boudu Saved from Drowning, legendary director Jean Renoir takes advantage of a host of Parisian locations and a brilliant performance by Simon to create an effervescent satire of bourgeois complacency.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated And Warm, An Excellent Comedy By Jean Renoir Sept. 29 2005
By C. O. DeRiemer - Published on Amazon.com
Turning off the water in the sink is as alien an idea to Boudu as not spitting on the dining room rug. Watching him try to clean bootblack from his hands is to watch the destruction of a kitchen. He's as oblivious to others as a strong wind blowing through a garden. One critic said the character of Boudu was like a ball in a pinball machine. Boudu (Michel Simon) is a scruffy tramp who jumps off a bridge in Paris when he loses his dog. Edouard Lestingois (Charles Granval) is a chubby, middle-aged bookseller, very much a member of the bourgeoisie, who rushes out of his shop, leaps into the river, saves Boudu and takes him into his home. Lestingois has a wife who is proper and cool. He employs a maid who is lusty and accommodating. Boudu will change their lives.

Boudu is an anarchic force of nature, stuffing his sardine dinner into his mouth with his hands and spitting his wine onto the floor. For Lestingois, who at first is pleased with himself for his heroism and with taking in such a specimen of the lower class, life becomes complicated and frustrating. He enjoys his trysts with the maid, Anne-Marie, but he recognizes he's getting a bit old. "She's charming," he says, "but last night I fell asleep before I could join her. No doubt about it, I'm growing old. My pipes are weary, and soon some shepherd will lure her with his youthful flute." Boudu, however, soon wearies of sleeping in a bed and takes to sleeping in the hall, next to Anne-Marie's door. "I get bored all alone in my room," Anne Marie tells Lestingois. "I'm not exactly jumping for joy in my room, either," he says. "Are you sorry you saved him?" she asks. "At night, I am."

Madame Lestingois, however, once Boudu is convinced to get a haircut and wear a proper suit, may not be quite the piece of ice she appears to be. When Boudu has the opportunity to closely inspect a small birthmark on Madame Lestingois' chest, well, it's not long before Madame Lestingois hears trumpets playing.

Boudu remains the same, wrapped up in his own world and with his own behavior, refusing a favor, turning back an innocent inquiry, tickling the bottom of Anne Marie, enjoying Madame Lestingois, making himself obliviously at home with Edouard Lestingois. He's a natural force that can't be controlled and, for some, barely endured. By the end of the movie it appears, however, that a lottery ticket and the prospect of lustful marriage to Anne Marie may finally tame Boudu. "For once, both modern morals and the laws of nature are satisfied," says a member of the wedding party. Fortunately, a lily floating on the river and a bad sense of balance bring Boudu back the life he had. He may have been saved from drowning at the start of the movie, but he's saved from bourgeois respectability at the end.

This is a marvelously sophisticated and warm comedy. Everybody has their foibles exposed and no one really gets hurt. Michel Simon as Boudu is simply unique. "I watch Boudu often," says Jean Renoir in a filmed introduction to the movie, "not because I revel in contemplation of my past work, but simply because of Michel Simon." Charles Granval as Lestingois is just about as good.

The Criterion DVD presentation is first rate. There are several extras which are interesting and informative, including an interview made 35 years later with Renoir and Simon discussing the movie.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a very nice film March 12 2006
By Ted - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.

"Boudu saved from drowning" known in France as "Boudu sauvé des eaux" is a comedy about a Parisian bookseller who rescues a homeless man from a suicide attempt. He takes him in but his poor manners bother those around him.

The film is directed by Jean Renoir known for many other great classic French films. The film has some great scenes of 1930's Paris and good acting.

The DVD has plenty of extra features also.

There is an old introduction to the film by Jean Renoir, an interactive map of 1930's Paris specializing in the film's locations, a new interview with filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin, scenes from a program featuring Jean Renoir and Michel Simon, and a video conversation between film director Eric Rohmer and movie critic Jean Douchet

The interactive map feature was very well done and shows how the filming locations appear today.

Overall, this is a very fine movie and I recommend it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Civilization and Its Discontents June 8 2007
By Mark Pruett - Published on Amazon.com
In BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING, Renoir's satire is never cruel. He shows affection for all of his silly characters, and no one escapes a ribbing.

Boudu is pure id (imagine Walt Whitman on a three-day bender), but he has no real malice toward anyone. Lestingois, the good citizen who takes him in, is driven by a sincere but utterly self-serving sense of compassion. He thinks he can bring this wild animal into his house and groom and curry him until he personifies the bookseller's own generosity. And he believes he can do this without any noticeable disruption in his own carefully ordered universe. Result: Boudu dutifully applies black polish to his shoes, then wipes off the excess with the aid of a white bedspread. At every turn, china shop meets bull. It's lovely.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious. Oct. 11 2006
By History Teacher - Published on Amazon.com
I'm not into a lot of analysis and social commentary like many of the reviewers of this film seem to be. And I have nothing against the bourgeoisie--average middle class people make the world go round (and I bet that most people who review films on Amazon are very middle-class, enjoying the comforts of 21st century America--which are considerably more than the comforts of 1930's France.) I can see that if there was a real Boudu, I would not want him in my house for very long, if at all (the man spits in books! He uses clean bed quilts to wipe his dirty feet!) However, all social commentary aside, this is one of the funniest movies ever. Michel Simon is a comic genius. The physical things he does, the way he talks just continually crack you up--he would be funny in a moview by himself. But it's even funnier here to watch him react with the other people in the movie, who are all really good actors and excellent straight men (and women). If you just want to laugh and laugh, watch this.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks Again Criterion Aug. 29 2005
By C. Rubin - Published on Amazon.com
I've been waiting for the DVD releases of the early 1930s Renoir films. As is standard for Criterion, the print quality of this release is beautiful and the extras are nice, especially the footage of Renoir, and Renoir with Simon, discussing the film. Great DVD release for Renoir and Simon fans; hopefully 'La Chienne' will follow soon.

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