Boudu Saved from Drowning ★★½

Another of Renoir's mischievous attacks on class structure, with Michel Simon forecasting his free-spirit role in L'Atalante as a bum who gets taken in by a well-to-do bourgeois family who discover the limits of their own charity; the title character is often cited as the first cinematic treatment of what would become a hippie, although my understanding is that committing rapes and spitting in books aren't necessarily defining characteristics of peace-loving, live-and-let-live types. It's more accurate to say Boudu is just an asshole who happens to be homeless, not that those who take him in are much better. Maybe, like several of Renoir's other oft-cited masterpieces, I will see to the heart of this film and appreciate its philosophical, social and comic contents whenever I see it again (the only one of his films I've immediately loved to date was The River), but on this pass it struck me as extremely strained, unfunny and dull, belaboring its amusing but thin premise well past the point of tolerance. It's gorgeously shot by Georges Asselin, whose photography just pops out of the frame with its constant liveliness and beauty, but no matter how much I know that I'm supposed to feel both delighted and tested by Boudu's boorishness, despite my own fitting of the Dirtbag Left stereotype I guess I'm just a little too uptight to find him funny. I get a kick out of Renoir's constantly voiced delight at the idea of shoving one's unwashed fingers into the idea of decorum, and I agree with the premise that many of those who commit extremely visible good deeds do so in the interest of their own class status and are unprepared for the actual substance of true sacrifice (this almost seems like a prediction of Solondz in its deadpan challenge to liberal preconception/privilege), it didn't feel to me as if this explored that idea in a particularly deep or sophisticated way. And I have trouble seeing past the sexual violence. Disappointing, though obviously not every world cinema classic can possibly work for me.