Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. France, 1932. Les Établissements Jacques Haïk, Les Productions Michel Simon, Crédit Cinématographique Français. Screenplay by Jean Renoir, Albert Valentin, based on the play by Rene Fauchois. Cinematography by Georges Asselin. Produced by Michel Simon. Production Design by Jean Castanier, Hugues Laurent. Film Editing by Suzanne de Troeye.
A notable film in the early French film canon, not Jean Renoir’s debut as director but his first massive hit and the role for which actor Michel Simon is best known. He plays a vagrant who throws himself in the Seine after his dog runs away, prompting a nearby, well-to-do shop owner to rescue him. The two become friendly and the richer man invites the bum to live with him and supports his recovery into respectable life. It is expected that Simon will take advantage of the opportunity to move up the social ladder, but what happens instead is that the household, complete with a frustrated bourgeoise of a wife, is shaken to its very core thanks to a man who is as much an anarchist as he is a clown. It is a record of a time and place with its adorable Paris locations, a sweetly light and perfectly punctuated comedy. Later remade as Down And Out In Beverly Hills in Hollywood and in France by Gerard Jugnot in 2005 with Gerard Depardieu.