Boudu Saved from Drowning

Boudu Saved from Drowning

French film poster
Directed by Jean Renoir
Produced by Michel Simon
Written by René Fauchois (play)
Jean Renoir
Starring Michel Simon
Music by Léo Daniderff (uncredited),
title and end music by Raphael,
flute music by J.Boulze,
orphéon music by Edouard Dumoulin,
Johann Strauss ("An der schönen, blauen Donau")
Distributed by Les Établissements Jacques Haïk
Release dates
11 November 1932
Running time
84 minutes
Country France
Language French

Boudu Saved from Drowning (French: Boudu sauvé des eaux, "Boudu saved from the waters") is a 1932 French film directed by Jean Renoir. Renoir wrote the film's screenplay, from the play by René Fauchois. The film stars Michel Simon as Boudu.

Pauline Kael called it, 'not only a lovely fable about a bourgeois attempt to reform an early hippy... but a photographic record of an earlier France.'[1]

Plot summary

Bourgeois Parisian, Latin Quarter bookseller, Edouard Lestingois, (Charles Granval), rescues a tramp, Boudu, from a suicidal plunge into the river Seine, from the Pont des Arts. Boudu is brought into Lestingois' household. The family adopts the man and dedicates itself to reforming him into a proper middle class person. Boudu (Michel Simon) shows his gratitude by shaking the household to its foundations, challenging the hidebound manners of his hosts and seduces not only the housemaid but also Madame Lestingois herself. Gradually Boudu is tamed, shaved and given a haircut, and put in a suit. Then he wins a large sum of money on the lottery, and is guided into marrying the housemaid. Finally however, at the wedding scene, Boudu capsizes a rowing boat and floats away from the wedding party, and "back to his old vagrancy, a free spirit once more."[2]



The film was remade in 1986 for an American audience as Down and Out in Beverly Hills, directed by Paul Mazursky.[3] Another remake, Boudu, was released in 2005. Gérard Jugnot directed, from a screenplay by Philippe Lopes-Curval. It starred Gérard Depardieu as Boudu.


Renoir changed the ending of René Fauchois's play. The play ends with the marriage of Boudu and Anne-Marie, whereas in Renoir's film, Boudu escapes 'from holy padlock' and heads for ' a future of independent, vagrant liberty.' Initially angry, according to Renoir, Fauchois threatened to have his name removed from the credits, but later changed his mind, and (in Cinéma 56, no.7, November 1955) said: "I have just seen the film again and I admired it and am happy to say so. As a very free adaptation of my work, Boudu belongs to Renoir." (Fauchois's career started as an actor with the Sarah-Bernhardt company, and in 1925 when Michel Simon played Boudu on the stage Fauchois was Lestingois.) In narrative terms, another major change by Renoir from the play, consists in shifting the centre of attention from the character of Lestingois to that of Boudu.[4]

Michel Simon was at various times, a boxer, a boxing instructor, a right-wing anarchist, a frequenter of prostitutes, pimps and petty crooks. He was extremely well read, a talented photographer, a hypochondriac, a misanthrope, owner of a vast collection of pornography and with a reputation for unorthodox sexual behaviour which he did not bother to deny. The writer Richard Boston has stated that, "Whether or not he was a pleasant man, he was certainly a complex one, with a good deal of Boudu in him," and Renoir called Simon "a genius of an actor...Boudu was conceived primarily to make use of the genius of Michel Simon." [5]

Michel Simon called Boudu a pique-assiette, a sponger, while the writer Richard Boston rejected the idea that Boudu had much in common with the hippies of the late 1960s, as Pauline Kael had suggested. "The Oxford English Dictionary says that hippie is a hipster; a person usually exotically dressed; a beatnik. None of this sounds remotely like Boudu. Boudu doesn't reject conventional values: he never had them in the first place: you wouldn't catch him doing anything as pussy-footing as 'rejecting conventional values.' " Rather, Boston argues, Boudu is what the French call a marginal. Boudu is anarchic, chaotic, and finally, a fool. An archetype, "these agents of chaos act out our secret desires. If we see a big bum we might want to kick it: Chaplin does kick it...Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Boudu, and Hulot are the enemies of conformity, of what can be regulated. They are the awkward squad." [6]

See also


  1. Kael, quoted in Richard Boston, Boudu, BFI Film Classics p.41
  2. Boston, Richard (1994). Boudu Saved from Drowning. London: BFI (Film Classics series). p. 10. ISBN 0-85170-467-0.
  3. "Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932)". AllMovie. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  4. Boston, p. 25, 28
  5. Boston, p.36-37
  6. Boston, p.46

External links

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