Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Jean Renoir | Boudu sauvé des eaux (Boudu Saved from Drowning)
by Douglas Messerli
Jean Renoir (writer, based on a play by René Fauchois), Jean Renoir (director) Boudu sauvé des eaux (Boudu Saved from Drowning) / 1932
The first of Jean Renoir’s masterworks, Boudou Saved from Drowning, was based on a boulevard farce by René Fauchois. I’ve never read that play, but it’s certain that Renoir’s work, which takes it regularly out of the Lestingois home and bookshop, is far superior in that, through those maneuvers, it connects the bourgeois activities of the Lestingois family to the Paris at large.
Both husband and wife are represented as sweet-meaning fools, Madame Lestingois (Marcelle Hainia) being a woman more interested in money and order than anything else, and the gentle bookseller (Charles Granval) having illusions of being a great humanist. In fact, as we see from the beginning of the work Lestingois is simply an old lecher, fawning (quite literally) on his maid, who readily accepts his attentions, probably with illusions that she might eventually replace her mistress.
Yet, as critics have pointed out, Renoir’s sweet satire does not openly mock these figures as much as he simply points out their own self-delusions, and to do that even more effectively, he deposits Boudu (Michel Simon), a man with no delusions and no social restrictions whatsoever, into their home after Lestingois valiantly saves the tramp from drowning.
Los Angeles, December 28, 2016