Shot in 1932 when sound at the movies was still in its infancy and later lamely remade as Down And Out In Beverly Hills, Boudu Saved From Drowning is one of Jean Renoir's most enjoyable films. Its wit, freshness and spontaneity continue to impress. Pioneering in its use of authentic locations, it stars Michel Simon as the anarchic tramp Boudu, who's rescued from drowning by a kindly Parisian bookseller and then installed in the latter's household with chaotic results.
The free-spirited Boudu pays no heed to bourgeois propriety: he prefers to sleep on the floor (or on a park bench) rather than on a bed, he spits in prized antiquarian books, and covers pristine white sheets with black shoe polish. Even more disruptively he proves a sexual threat to his host Monsieur Lestingois (Charles Grandval), seducing his benefactor's wife, and then agreeing to marry the maid with whom Lestingois had been having an affair.
"DEEP FOCUS COMPOSITIONS"
No wonder that Renoir was such a hero to the young Turks of the French New Wave in the 1960: his mobile camera explores the actual streets, river banks and waterways of a bustling Paris, whilst his deep focus compositions heighten our sense that we are watching realistic events. Naturally the prancing Simon dominates proceedings, rolling his eyeballs and wreaking havoc with his clumsiness, his clowning foreshadowing both Jacques Tati's Monsieur Hulot and Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau. And Renoir himself changed the original play's ending, to come up with an enjoyably subversive affirmation of Boudu's untameable spirit.