I have relatively large, completely personal issues with old French comedy. À nous la liberté is pretty much the only old French comedy I’ve ever really liked. I think it boils down to a feeling that comedies of this stripe are constantly winking at the viewer, nudge nudging. Say NO MORE! The laugh track serves the purpose more subtly in these modern times, but in Boudu we get characters who laugh at their own jokes. Tres gauche. Not my style.
Boudu the bum is basically the French version of Chaplin’s. A bit more too, as he’s a pretty generic holy fool and megaphone through which Renoir mocks the bourgeoisie. And, due to its notorious difficultly, the satire falls flat for me here and becomes, as aforementioned, mere mockery. The bourgeois mentality is bluntly served up in dialogue that’s basically shit no one ever says. Perhaps the subtitling loses some nuance, but judging by the deliberate, blunt trauma chaos that Boudu inflicts upon all and sundry with whom he comes into contact, Renoir wasn’t that concerned with subtlety in the first place.
Basically no one comes off well; even at the end of the film when Renoir could have redeemed, and very much should have redeemed Boudu, (at least by having his dog return to him), all that occurs is a stumbling exit, which, though appropriate for a bum, doesn’t provide much closure in any other regard.