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Boudu Saved from Drowning (The Criterion Collection)

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.


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

Special Features

  • Archival introduction by Jean Renoir
  • Excerpt from a Cineastes de notre temps program, featuring Renoir and Michel Simon
  • New video interview with filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin
  • Archival interview with Eric Rohmer
  • Interactive map of 1930's Paris, featuring locations from the film
  • A new essay by Renoir scholar Christopher Faulkner

Product Details

  • Actors: Michel Simon, Marcelle Hainia, Sévérine Lerczinska, Jean Gehret, Max Dalban
  • Directors: Jean Renoir
  • Writers: Jean Renoir, Albert Valentin, René Fauchois
  • Producers: Michel Simon
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: August 23, 2005
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009WIE2K
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,693 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Boudu Saved from Drowning (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
The opening scenes of 'Boudu Saved from drowning' contrast the urbane bookseller Lestingois with the hirsute titular tramp. The former presides over a haven of super-civilisation on the banks of the Seine, surrounded by rare books, paintings, statues, the best that the best minds have thought and created. he is using the skill absorbed from this culture, however, to beguile his impressionable mistress, the young maid Anne-Marie - in this case classical rhetoric not only disguising basic natural urges, but actually replacing them, Lestingois' appetite more evident that his capabilities.
Boudu, on the other hand, is first seen in a park, caressing his dog, singing snatches of song, linked to the natural and populist. These two collide when Lestingois rescues a suicidal Boudu, and invites him into his home, where he is soon smashing plates, smearing shoe polish over the satin and spiiting in rare Balzac novels. The movement of the film seems to be towards the greater bourgeoisification of Boudu - new clothes, Samsonian hair cut, ennobling by money and marriage. But the film actually revolves around sex. The film starts with a Greek tableau of Pan chasing a nymph, cut to Lestingois and Anne-Marie. Boudu begins replacing his benefactor, not by accumulating bourgeois habits, but by displaying the sexual prowess the self-styled Priapus Lestingois lacks (the latter has no children).
70 years on, 'Boudu' remains a shockingly funny comedy, provocatively hostile to the soul-stultifying deceptions, compromises and resignations of the bourgoisie.
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Format: DVD
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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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I'm not a fan of comedic cinema (nothing against it as a genre or art form; I just don't have much of a funny bone). But Renoir's "Boudo Saved from Drowning" (or "...from the water" in French) had me laughing at the richness of Michel Simon's portrayal of the crazily unconventonal tramp who disrupts a respectable bourgeois household.

Boudo is a comical Caliban, a wild "Neanderthal" as one of the film's characters calls him, who serves as a countervailing force to everything that the middle class calls "civilization." He eats when he wants, sleeps where he wants, wears what he wants, he has no sense of property or propriety, and feels neither gratitude nor obligation when given a handout. He's very much like an animal: embodied, appetitive, and clueless about what's respectable and what's not.

But Boudu performs an important function in the film: he reveals the pretensions and hypocrisy of so-called respectable middle class. They sneak around in their adulterous affairs. Boudu's lust is open and unconcealed. They sell their souls for money and prestige. Boudu couldn't care less. They mouth platitudes about helping their fellow man, but only if the fellow man they're helping is polite and clean and well-trained. "Boudu Saved from Drowning" is a wonderful expose of the thinness of the veneer we call "social propriety."

Just three hilarious moments from the film:

Edouard Lestingois (Charles Granval), the bookseller who saves Boudu from the Seine and then embarks on a crusade to civilize him, washes his hands of his uncooth guest when he discovers that Boudu has spit in a copy of Balzac's The Physiology of Marriage. "I care less than nothing for someone who would desecrate this book!" he exclaims. "One should only come to the aid of one's equals!
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Boudu Saved from Drowning (The Criterion Collection)
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