Boudu Saved from Drowning

Boudu sauvé des eaux

Jean Renoir, France, 1932


In this film Jean Renoir immerses his character in the very heart of the world itself: Only Michel Simon – not a very famous actor when the film was shot- knows he is being filmed, and he acts alone. Renoir chose to film on the Quai de Conti, in Paris, in a very busy area, bound to offer many random events and hazards. Renoir observes the effect of the confrontation from afar, as Michel Simon’s large body, dressed up like a tramp, walks along the quay, nearly pushing the passers-by around. The long focus and the hidden camera produce one of the spectator’s great pleasures: To see without being seen. This informs the cameraman’s work, who must seek to “catch up” with his subject, who sometimes disappears as cars drive past. It is the first scene of the film that is filmed with “real people” and in front of the film-maker’s eyes, the actor literally becomes the tramp: offset, he is invisible to the passers-by who are rushing past. The eye of today’s spectator confers it a peculiar reality, which probably did not strike the spectators at that time (the film was filmed in 1932): our attention goes to the passers-by’s clothes, the way the cars looked like, the sequence documents a by gone era for us, shedding light on one of the most important aspects of cinema since its creation: its capacity to record reality.