Dir. Gerard Jugnot. Fr.2005. 104mins.
Ridinghigh on a personal popularity consecrated by the runaway success of TheChorus, Gerard Jugnot now delivers his ninth feature film aswriter-director-actor. But his remake of the 1932 classic Boudu Saved FromDrowning is as ill advised as Down And Out In Beverly Hills, PaulMazursky's 1986 Hollywood makeover.
Jugnot's film, at least, hasenjoyed strong success at home through the dream pairing of himself and GerardDepardieu but lacks the comic drive and imagination to take it very far abroad.
Jean Renoir's 1930s originalwas an evergreen bull-in-a-china-shop farce. Its star, Michel Simon, who boughtthe original stage property, played a reckless tramp who ran amok amidliberal-minded Parisian bourgeois in one of those rare, happy examples of agreat actor and a great director complementing each other perfectly.
The latest versiontransposes tramp Boudu (Depardieu) to the southern jewel-box town ofAix-en-Provence, where he is rescued from drowning by Christian (Juignot).
His reluctant debt-riddensaviour, a gallery owner, takes him into a home that includes depressive,alcoholic Yseult (Frot) and live-in assistant Coralie (Dolle).
Boudu 2005 feels like aproducer's project, as Jugnot and his co-writer Philippe-Lopes Curval toildutifully but ineffectually to breathe new life into the material (which, thecredits state, is "freely inspired" by the original play rather than the Renoirmovie.)
While the story carries somemoral progression, its conventional feelgood finale rings false and it allappears light years from the radical Renoir-Simon assault on bourgeoisproprieties.
It seems almost a matter ofcourse that the new Boudu be portrayed by the massive (and paunchy) GerardDepardieu, who again seems to be coasting rather than acting. As the vulgar,malodorous, overbearing and carnal tramp he is never as imaginatively funny ashe has been in the films of Francis Veber.
Bald pudgy Jugnot remainstrue to his screen persona of the nondescript, unheroic average Frenchman whomevents lead to some kind of moral epiphany while Catherine Frot delivers thebest comic performance.
Tech credits are good, withattractive photography but overuse of classical music does not always mesh withthe action.
Prod cos: GMT, Novo Arturo, DD Prods, TF1 Films Prods, Pathe
Int'l sales: Pathe
Fr dist: Pathe
Exec prod: Veronique Mar
Prod: Jean-Pierre Guerin, GerardJugnot
Scr: Gerard Jugnot,Philippe-LopesCurval,freely inspired by the play by Rene Fauchois
Cine: Gerard Simon
Ed: Catherine Kelber
Prod des: Jean-Louis Poveda
Main cast: Gerard Jugnot, GerardDepardieu, Catherine Frot, Constance Doll, Jean-Paul Rouve