Boudu SauvÉ Des Eaux - Film (Movie) Plot and Review





(Boudu Saved from Drowning)


France, 1932


Director: Jean Renoir

Production: Société Sirius; running time: 83 minutes. Released November 1932, Paris. Filmed summer 1932 in Epinay studios; exteriors filmed at Chennevières and in Paris.


Screenplay: Jean Renoir with Robert Valentin, from a work by René Fauchois; assistants to the director: Jacques Becker and Georges Darnoux; photography: Marcel Lucien; editors: Marguerite Renoir and Suzanne de Troye; sound: Igor B. Kalinowski; production design: Jean Castanier and Hugues Laurent; music: Raphael Strauss and Johann Strauss; song: "Sur les bords de la Riviera" by Leo Daniderff.


Cast: Michel Simon ( Boudu ); Charles Granval ( Edouard Lestingois ); Marcelle Hainia ( Emma Lestingois ); Séverine Lerczinska ( Anne-Marie ); Jean Dasté ( The Student ); Max Dalban ( Godin ); Jean Gehret ( Vigour ); Jacques Becker ( Poet on the river bank ); Jane Pierson ( Rose ); Régine Lutèce ( Woman walking the dog ); Georges Darnoux ( Guest at the wedding ).


Publications


Books:

Davay, Paul, Jean Renoir , Brussels, 1957.

Cauliez, Armand-Jean, Jean Renoir , Paris, 1962.

Chardère, Bernard, editor, Jean Renoir , in Premier Plan (Lyon), no. 22–24, May 1962.

Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques, Analyses des films de Jean Renoir , Paris, 1964.

Bennett, Susan, Jean Renoir , London, 1967.

Leprohon, Pierre, Jean Renoir , Paris, 1967; New York, 1971.

Poulle, François, Renoir 1938; ou, Jean Renoir pour rien: Enquête sur un cinéaste , Paris, 1969.

Braudy, Leo, Jean Renoir: The World of His Films , New York, 1972.

Bazin, André, Jean Renoir , edited by François Truffaut, Paris, 1973.

Durgnat, Raymond, Jean Renoir , Berkeley, 1974.

Beylie, Claude, Jean Renoir: Le Spectacle, la vie , Paris, 1975.

Renoir, Jean, Essays, Conversations, Reviews , edited by Penelope Gilliatt, New York, 1975.

Armes, Roy, French Cinema Since 1946: Volume 1: The Great Tradition , New York, 1976.

Faulkner, Christopher, Jean Renoir: A Guide to References and Resources , Boston, 1979.

Sesonske, Alexander, Jean Renoir: The French Films 1924–1939 , Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1980.

Gauteur, Claude, editor, Jean Renoir: Oeuvres de cinéma inédites , Paris, 1981.

McBride, Joseph, editor, Filmmakers on Filmmaking 2 , Los Angeles, 1983.

Serceau, Daniel, Jean Renoir , Paris, 1985.

Bertin, Celia, Jean Renoir , Paris, 1986.

Faulkner, Christopher, The Social Cinema of Jean Renoir , Princeton, New Jersey, 1986.

Vincendeau, Ginette, and Keith Reader, La Vie est à Nous: French Cinema of the Popular Front , London, 1986.

Viry-Babel, Roger, Jean Renoir: Le Jeu et la règle , Paris, 1986.

Cavagnac, Guy, Jean Renoir: Le désir du monde , Paris, 1994.

Leutrat, Jean-Louis, Le chiene de Jean Renoir , Crisnée, 1994.

Boston, Richard, Boudu Saved From Drowning , London, 1994.

O'Shaughnessy, Martin, Jean Renoir , New York, 2000.


Articles:

"Renoir Issue" of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1952.

"Renoir Issue" of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), Christmas 1957.

Belanger, Jean, "Why Renoir Favors Multiple Camera, Long Sustained Take," in American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), March 1960.

Whitehall, Richard, "Painting Life with Movement," in Films and Filming (London), June 1960.

Whitehall, Richard, "The Screen Is His Canvas," in Films and Filming (London), July 1960.

Harcourt, Peter, "Jean Renoir," in London Magazine , December 1962.

Russell, Lee, "Jean Renoir," in New Left Review (New York), May-June 1964.

Renoir, Jean, "How I Came to Film Boudu ," in Films Society Review (New York), February 1967.

Sarris, Andrew, in Cahiers du Cinéma in English (New York), March 1967.

Fofi, Goffredo, "The Cinema of the Popular Front in France," in Screen (London), Winter 1972–73.

Abel, R., "Collapsing Columns: Mise-en-scène in Boudu ," in Jump Cut (Chicago), January-February 1975.

Walker, Janet, and Luli McCarroll, "Renoir on the Bridge: A Reading of Boudu Saved from Drowning ," in Wide Angle (Athens, Ohio), no. 4, 1981.

Strebel, Elizabeth Grottle, "Jean Renoir and the Popular Front," in Feature Films as History , edited by K. R. M. Short, London, 1981.

O'Kane, J., "Style, Space Ideology in Boudu Saved from Drowning ," in Enclitic (Minneapolis), Fall 1981-Spring 1982.

Morgan, J., "From Clochards to Cappuccinos: Boudu Is Down and Out in Beverly Hills ," in Cinema Journal (Austin, Texas), no. 2, 1990.

Holmlund, C. A., "New Cold War Sequels and Remakes," in Jump Cut (Berkeley, California), April 1990.

Andersson, L. " Boudu vesien snojatti," Filmihullu (Helsinki), no. 6, 1995.

Monterde, J. E., "Jean Renoir: anos treinta," Nosferatu (Donostia-San Sebastian), no. 17, March 1995.

Renoir, A., "Jean Renoir conteur d'histoires," Trafic, no. 24, Winter 1997.


* * *

Boudu sauvé des eaux makes abundantly clear why Jean Renoir's work was so admired by André Bazin, and why the filmmakers of the New Wave regarded him as their supreme antecedent and father-figure. Bazin's theory of realism—especially in so far as it is concerned with the preservation of the physical realities of time and space—is repeatedly exemplified by the use in Boudu of long takes, camera movement, and depth-of-field, relating action to action, character to character, foreground to background and continuously suggesting the existence of a world beyond the frame. The subversive implications of the material, the use of real locations instead of studio sets, the sense of a moral freedom combining inevitably with technical freedom, the evident love of actors and performance, and the resulting effect of spontaneity—all could add up to a model for the ambitions of the New Wave.

Leo Braudy has interpreted Renoir's work in terms of a dialectic of nature and "theatre" (the latter to be understood both literally and metaphorically), the two concepts achieving a complex interplay. Boudu works very well in this light. Indeed the film opens with a theatrical representation of nature rites (Lestingois as satyr, Anne-Marie as nymph). If Renoir shows great affection for the world of nature surrounding, and epitomized by, Boudu —the freedom of the tramp without restrictions, the play of sunlight on water, the lush fertility of the imagery of the film's final scene—he is equally charmed by the bourgeois household of the Lestingois—by the artificial birds that Anne-Marie must dust, by Lestingois's reverence for Balzac (on whose works Boudu casually spits, not with the slightest animus but simply because it is natural to spit when you feel the need). One might add that he finds the Lestingois household charming because of the lingering traces of a subjugated, sublimated nature that continue to animate it. At the same time, he sees that it is the subjugation that makes culture possible. Windows—the barrier between nature and culture but also the means of access—are a recurrent motif throughout Renoir's work. In the films of Ophuls (with whom Renoir has many points of contact while remaining so different) windows are always being closed; in those of Renoir they are always being opened. He is centrally concerned with the possibility of free access and interchange between the two worlds, the uncertainty of being crucial.

The desire to negotiate between nature and culture encounters problems which the film can't resolve, and partially evades. On the one hand, the comic mode enables Renoir to avoid confronting the psychic misery produced by bourgeois repressiveness: Madame Lestingois, in particular can only be a comic character for the film to continue to function. If her position were allowed to be explored seriously, the laughter would die immediately. The scene in which she is "liberated" by being raped by Boudu is saved from distastefulness solely by being played as farce. On the other hand, Renoir's equivocation in evaluating the bourgeois world results in some confusion over Boudu himself: does he or does he not represent a serious threat to it? The point gains force when one compares Michel Simon's characterization hero with his père Jules in Vigo's L'Atalante. Jules is at once more formidable and more consistent, and Vigo's radicalism more sharply defined. Boudu, in contrast, seems little more than a presocialized (and pre-sexual) child, essentially harmless. The sudden ascription to him of great sexual potency jars, considering that we are told earlier that he has never kissed anyone except his dog.

The film is typical of Renoir's work in its warmth, humanity, generosity; it also suggests the close relation between that generosity and impotence. If every way of life can be defended, then nothing need be changed.

—Robin Wood

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