Boudu Saved From Drowning


The Criterion Collection #64
Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Films #116
They Shoot Pictures, Don't They #635

Review contains spoilers:

Out of all Jean Renoir films, this one reminds me of The Rules of the Game the most. While Rules is about rich people acting crazy, Boudu is more about a bourgeois man's experiment. In both cases, the characters are mad throughout the film. Lestingois saves a tramp from drowning. Like Pygmalion, he tries to reform the mess of a man. However, Boudu's nature and ingratitude does not make his benefactor's efforts worthwhile. Boudu is no Eliza Doolittle.

I wonder about its relevance today. Apparently when the film was released, people were shocked that Boudu tried to shine his shoes on the satin bedspread. Nowadays, who cares? My biggest problem with Boudu is that it's ultra cynical. If one were to take it seriously, the message could be construed as being, "Do not help the poor. They will not appreciate the charity, nor will they change. The road to hell is paved with best intentions, so Lestingois should have let Boudu drown."

Of course, Renoir's great filmmaking cannot be ignored. It is entertaining. The actors are capable. The story is coherent. While it did not blow me away, neither was I disappointed.


Matt said…
I think there is a fundamental humanism rather than cynicism in the film. If there is cynicism it is toward Lestingois and his wife. Renoir seems to say, "Is Boudu the crazy one or is Lestingois crazy for trying to reform him?" Due to this I think Renoir sides with Boudu by taking the attitude that reforming someone is actually rather ridiculous and presumptuous.

The American remake, on the other hand, is a bit more cynical - but enjoyable as well.

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