I’m gaining an appreciation for Jean Renoir. I’m just not sure if, or rather how much, I like him just yet. He’s very good at what he does, and watching just about any of his films is an excellent technical education into how films should be made; it’s the actual watching that can be tiring at times. Take Boudu Saved from Drowning, for instance. It’s about a French tramp named Boudu who, after being saved from drowning by another man, is taken in by him, and then proceeds to upheave all the order and convention in the man’s life, causing chaos wherever he roams. Such a premise would, or rather should, make for a highly entertaining film. This, however; I don’t know what to think. There’s bit and pieces of entertainment, mostly in watching the titular Boudu stamp around causing mischief, but after a while, the man’s antics wore thin, and unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t hold up well enough to get by without him. Even the technicals, which are normally spot on in a Renoir film, are rather stagnant here; though to Renoir’s credit, you can see that he is at least trying, and there are flashes of what would exemplify his films later on.
One thing I’ve noticed about films of the era, especially foreign films, is that they seem to always enter in the middle, assuming you already know who each person is and their background. I don’t know if it is just a part of the culture that isn’t present over here, but it slightly irked me that the film had the presumption to think I knew all this stuff already, when I had no way of knowing it (besides the internet, but this was before that came along). Still, after a little while it didn’t bother me as much; by then, I was accustomed to the characters, even if I was still a little foggy on who they were. The one character I was never foggy on, however, was Boudu himself, played by Michel Simon. He is by far and large the commanding force of the film, and despite being one of the most unlikable characters to grace the screens of cinema, it was mesmerizing to watch Simon at work bringing such a character completely to life, and it was the prime factor of my enjoyment of the film. However, it was also pretty much the only factor.
So, how to recommend this one? It’s a Renoir, so that name carries some extra weight with it, but at the same time, there’s just so much to not like about this film. From its main character, to the sometimes rusty technicals, to the mostly flat entertainment value, it would be harder to try and come up with things that I did like, aside from Michel Simon’s acting. I thought the premise was a good one, and the execution, despite its flaws, I can’t really fault too much. For what it was worth, I did like the ending; Renoir changed the original ending of the play the film is adapted from, and I think it was a better choice – what he ended up with. Still, at this point, I’m actively looking for things to like, rather than having them jump out at me as I’m watching the film, which should speak for itself right there. I really did wish this was better, pretty much just because it was a Renoir, but I’m left with a disgusted, slimy feeling about the whole thing, and while I can respect a film which has the intention to do just that to its audience, it still doesn’t make for very pleasurable viewing.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10