Boudu Saved From Drowning is a style of film that is quite popular in the modern independent film scene. Tales of understanding the outcasts and what it means to fit in with the status quo have always been powerful, especially ones such as this one, where the moral is that no particular group or culture is without its drawbacks.
This film tells the story of Boudu, a homeless man who decided to commit suicide by jumping off of a bridge, but is saved by a man of “integrity”. He is then taken in to the ma…‘s home, given a new suit, and expected to change his ways and become a valuable member of society. Once these cultures collide, the resulting comedy is inevitable. The truth behind the humor, however, is biting.
As great as this film is, the real story here is the incredible work of Michel Simon. His turn as Bondu is simply amazing. He has captured the eccentric mannerisms of one who stands out but desperately wants to fit in with true brilliance. He is at once tragic and hilarious, and his work alone makes this film one for the ages.
This disc feature’s the film’s original French Mono soundtrack, newly mastered in Dolby Digital. Obviously, audio was not a major concern at the time this film was shot. In fact, it had not been much earlier that films had no sound at all. The Jazz Singer had just been released five years prior. When this fact is taken into consideration, the audio on this track is actually quite good. Dialog is clear, as are the sound effects, letting viewers hear such delicate sounds as the creak of a wooden chair and even the rustling of a cloth napkin as it is being folded.
I was mildly disappointed in the video quality on this disc. The film was made in 1932, so I had pretty low expectations from the start. However, this is a Criterion release, and I have sen them do some pretty amazing things with classic films in the past. I have complete faith that they pulled this transfer from the best source material they could find, and that many hours were spent on the restoration. All that being said, there is still a sufficient amount of dust and scratches on almost every frame of this film. There are also a few instances of the images being out of focus. This is by no means a great video presentation, but it is also by far the best one available.
There are not a ton of extras included on this disc, but what is here is of high quality. A short vintage Introduction by Jean Renoir not only includes some interesting information about the film, but also serves as a fascinating historical relic. Also here is an all-new interview with filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin, in which he shares his thoughts on the film and director Jean Renoir. Gorin collaborated with Renoir on a series of films, and his inside knowledge of the director’s style is very interesting. It is also notable that this extra is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. An excerpt from a 1967 television program, featuring Jean Renoir and Michel Simon is also included, and it is just as it sounds. The segment is fairly short, and it is in un-restored black and white. A similar extra is a French television conversation between director Eric Rohmer and Jean Douchet, wherein they too discuss the film, and explore its social implications.
My personal favorite special feature here is an interactive map of 1930’s Paris that highlights many of the film’s locations. Viewers can either explore on their own, or take a fascinating guided tour that ties the culture and infrastructure of this classic city to the film. Finally, there is a short essay by Renoir scholar Christopher Faulkner. This selection of extras provides a wealth of quality insight into this wonderful film.
Yet again, Criterion has found a film that I would never have seen otherwise, and brought it into my home in the best quality currently possible. Michel Simon’s work here should be required viewing for aspiring actors everywhere. This, combined with a painstakingly assembled assortment of extras with the filmmakers, make this disc another hit from Criterion.
Special Features List
- Jean Renoir Introduction
- Interview with filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin
- Excerpt from a 1967 television program, featuring Jean Renoir and Michel Simon
- French television conversation between director Eric Rohmer and Jean Douchet
- Interactive map of 1930
- Essay by Renoir scholar Christopher Faulkner