Saved from Drowning Yet Again

March 29, 2005By Heidi EllisonFilm

March 15, 2005: Was it really necessary to make a third version of the same film, especially when the first was such a perfect gem? In 1932, Jean Renoir made Boudu Sauvé des Eaux, with the brilliant Michel Simon playing the clochard Boudu, who is saved from suicide by a bourgeois couple and then insinuates himself into their lives, making absolutely no concessions to propriety. Renoir’s film was hilarious and touching. The next director to take a stab at the story was Paul Mazursky, with the 1986 Hollywood version, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, starring Nick Nolte as the bum, with Bette Midler and Richard Dreyfuss as the wealthy couple whose lives are turned upside-down by their embarrassing houseguest. Altogether a funny, successful attempt. Now actor Gérard Jugnot directs and plays the husband in a new version called Boudu. The title role is played by that force of nature Gérard Depardieu, who is in no fewer than five films on French screens at the moment. Depardieu (were he and Nick Nolte separated at birth?) is convincing as Boudu, but not as frighteningly hilarious as he could be. For the rest, it’s an entertaining little film, but when you’re inviting comparison to a great one, you have to do better than that.


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