Winter 2012 Features series
Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 4:00pm
Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 7:00pm
Directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Screenplay by Aki Kaurismäki
Starring Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Blondin Miguel, and André Wilms
Rated PG ·
Germany / France / Finland
Directed by Aki Kaurismäki (The Man Without a Past, Leningrad Cowboys Go America ) this film circles around Marcel Marx (André Wilms), a warm, aging bohemian artist who has retreated to the French port city of Le Havre and taken up work as a shoeshine man – a profession with a limited future, as everyone seems to be wearing running shoes. He is married to a woman with a heart of gold (Kati Outinen) and, despite their poverty and limited means, he finds joy in their local neighbours, all of whom seem as if they have emerged intact from a 1930s movie.
One day, Marcel befriends Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), a young African immigrant hoping to make his way to England in a shipping container with other illegals. Marcel is determined to extend a helping hand to the wide-eyed boy, but the law, in the form of Inspector Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), is equally determined to stand in his way. An intricate dance of hide-and-seek ensues, Marcel using all his ingenuity to hide Idrissa while the nefarious Monet keeps hot on the trail.
No other contemporary filmmaker manages to blend deadpan, ironic humour with social commentary in quite the same manner as Finnish master Aki Kaurismäki. Le Havre has received overwhelming critical acclaim, and has recently been named Finland’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film for the 84th Academy Awards.
The moody, retro ambiance of the film’s titular Norman port city enhances a tidy plot that blends the noir-like elements of a Jean-Pierre Melville film with the gentle humanism of Jean Renoir at his best. Atmospheric, quiet and completely assured, Kaurismäki employs these diverse elements to tell a highly contemporary story about illegal refugees, a subject of immediate relevance in today’s Europe.
This movie is as lovable as a silent comedy, which it could have been. It takes place in a world that seems cruel and heartless, but (…) there is nothing cynical or cheap about it, it tells a good story with clear eyes and a level gaze, and it just plain makes you feel good. (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times).