Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michel Simon, Charles Granval, Marcelle Hainia, Sévérine Lerczinska, Jean Gehret, Max Dalban, Jean Dasté, Jacques Becker
Written by: Jean Renoir, based on a play by René Fauchois
Directed by: Jean Renoir
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 84
Date: 11/11/1932

Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932)

4 Stars (out of 4)

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By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932), Jean Renoir managed to take a rather silly old play and turned it into a work of art. His secret weapon was the amazing Michel Simon (also in Renoir's La Chienne) in the title role, a shaggy tramp who decides to jump off a bridge and end his life after his dog runs off. (He appeals to a policeman for help in finding the dog, but is given the brush-off; immediately following a wealthy lady asks for help finding her dog, and the cop is only too happy to help.) On the bridge, a crowd gathers, seemingly having a good time watching the tramp's potential suicide. But a bookseller, Edouard Lestingois (Charles Granval), spots him and dives into the Seine to save him. Edouard invites Boudu to stay in his stately home, where he behaves mostly like an animal, seducing both Edouard's wife (Marcelle Hainia), but also the housemaid (Sévérine Lerczinska), the latter of whom had been embarking upon an affair with Edouard. The big, lopsided Boudu, with his mound of facial hair, has little regard for anything, including the beautiful antique books on the premises. But the key is that he's not vindictive; rather, it simply never occurred to him to think that way. The play's plot mechanics kick in when Boudu wins a lottery and is coerced into marrying the housemaid, but Renoir keeps it all beautifully, humorously on track.

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