Bhoudu (Michel Simon) is a homeless man living on the street, after a suicidal plunge into the river, a bookseller, Edouard (Charles Granval) saves and brings him into his home. He starts being his benefactor so that Bhoudu can become a member of the bourgeoisie himself. While this is happening, Edouard is also having an affair with his live in maid, Anne (Severine Lerczinska) from his wife Emma (Marcelle Hainia).
This movie was directed by Jean Renoir, a French Icon who directed many great films over the course of his 40 year career. This film shows that Renoir is a master of his craft. The cinematography and editing is great, the tone consistent as a lighthearted satire of 30s France, and the acting perfect from its principal cast (the 4 mentioned in the above paragraph). Though it’s not as funny as I would have liked for a satire, there were still points that I couldn’t help but laugh, especially from Bhoudu as the befuddling fool, he brings a lot of much-needed lightheartedness to the story.
The problems are that the pacing isn’t always correct for this type of movie and some scenes seem to drag and that the story itself is particularly slow to get going and, if I could have been there, I would have recommended they started the movie at the beginning of the second act as that’s where the “excitement” starts, and then have more character development between Bhoudu and the rest of the household throughout the film. He’s the best part of the movie, and gives the movie it’s real heart, hardly having him in the first act at all, outside of small scenes away from Edouard’s house, in not to this movie’s benefit.
As for the pacing problems, this movie had many scenes that were kind of pointless, such as the reaction shot of the audience that gathers as Edouard swims out to the drowning man. Or the many shots of cats that are never mentioned and go nowhere. Also, there’s too many cold-open shots where nothing is happening for 30 seconds or so before action starts happening in each scene. This is more something you’d expect in the beginning of the movie when they’re introducing characters, but instead it’s all throughout the movie even when one isn’t called for. I feel both these things are more something you’d expect in a drama than a satire, and a faster pace would really have added to the effects of the genre. As is, the pace of the movie and the tone of the movie feel at odds with each other. Maybe it had something to do with styles of the time, if so, I’m glad it’s one that didn’t last.
Why you should watch it before you die: For the wonderful character of Boudu and to see an almost-great film from a masterful director.
+7: Decently entertaining satire
+1.5: Expert directing and cinematography
+1: Perfect acting from principal cast members
-1: Pointless first act
-1: Too many slow scenes
-1: War between Pacing and Tone