This is one of those feel good films that has something for nearly everyone. It is bout Marcel Marx Andre Wilms (`Europa, Europa' -also excellent), who scratches a living doing shoe shines in the port of Le Havre. He has a coterie of friends, mostly poor, and a doting wife Arletty, who is covering up her illness from him.
One day a runaway illegal immigrant or `irregular' as we now say comes to his attention. Whilst the media portray this boy, Idrissa, as a possible terrorist, Marcel sees a frightened lonely child who needs help. Despite being chased by the police, Marcel takes all the risks he can to help him. The boy's mother is in London and that is where he wants to get, but with no money and no clue of how to do so.
What happens next is both life affirming and heart warming, some may say too much so. However I was swept along by this beautifully paced and told story. The acting is all spot on, and I particularly like the lack of pretty actors, this is a proper slice of life and has a very cosmopolitan attitude to modern day France and its attitude to immigration. We even get a sort of charity gig at one point which is where `Little Bob' comes in and he makes `the Stones' look a bit spritely - God bless him.
Directed and written by Aki Kaurismaki this is one of those films that will leave you with a nice war feeling inside and a desire to see more of his films, which are not prolific enough. So if a bit of Gallic spirit and humour all wrapped up in a feel good factor is your thing then you really can not go wrong with this brilliant piece of cinema.
The droll Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki hadn`t made a film since Lights In The Dusk in 2006, and frankly I was having severe withdrawal symptoms. His last couple of films were a tad disappointing, so it`s good to be able to say that he is back at his deadpan best with this touching tale of an elderly man, Marcel, and a young refugee African boy, Idrissa, in the northern French port of the title.
This is a somewhat gentler work than some of Kaurismaki`s other films, though it has the same mixture of a kind of bleak compassion and mordantly dispassionate observation of working-class people in all their flawed, random multifariousness - `Lord, what fools these mortals be`, indeed.
The plot is minimal, but the rewards to be had from this film of modest marvels are many, not least the central performances by the imposing Andre Wilms as Marcel, and Blondin Miguel as the boy. In fact, Wilms is both subtle and unselfishly restrained as the rather reluctant father figure. The ways in which his neighbours aid and abet his efforts are unsentimentally heartening, and often humorous.
It`s a lovely film to look at too. It lingers in the memory more like a play might, with its backstreet setting - as well as forays to the harbour - and scenes in various bars and shops, as Marcel tries to keep the authorities from discovering the boy.
If you like - or love as I do - this director`s films, you`ll fall for this return to form. If only more directors had the uncluttered honesty, unforced humour, and lack of self-importance of Kaurismaki.
Oh, and there`s a brief scene involving an investigator and a pineapple that made me laugh out loud.
Welcome back, Aki!
on 11 May 2012
Wonderful, evocative, gritty French film about loyalities and neighbourhoods, about bending the rules and happy endings. You can almost smell the cigarette smoke wafting up from the ashtrays, taste the crispy french bread and savour the sharp dry red wine. The characters are solid, realistic and stoical. It will make you question your own attitude to sterotypes and the immigration 'problems' of France and the UK, and will touch you with its honest, heart-warming story. Even viewing in French with subtitles doesn't take away the pleasure of this film. First rate. I can't wait for it to be out on DVD as I plan to watch it again and again.
on 27 March 2013
The central themes of Le Havre are death, illness, loneliness and illegal immigration into Europe. Despite this, it is one of the most optimistic and humorous (a dry, ironic type) films to have come out of Europe over the past few years.
Without giving too much away, it follows a young boy who arrives in Le Havre from Africa in search of a better life in Europe. He comes across an elderly couple there and the film documents the struggle to escape from the police that the child and the couple endure.
Kaurismaki's script is restrained, witty and moving and the performances humane and believable. An excellent film and Kaurismaki's best to date.
This 2011 film written and directed by idiosyncratic Finnish film-maker Aki Kaurismaki is a typically 'off-the-wall’ (largely) dark comedy, but also with a good deal to say about life in Western Europe (in this case, in the Normandy port of the film’s title). Here, Kaurismaki bases his relatively low-key tale of an economically struggling 'elderly’ shoeshine man, André Wilms’ placid Marcel Marx and his attempts to assist African child and economic migrant Blondin Miguel’s Gabonese, Idrissa, as the latter seeks to be re-united with his mother in London. Of course, this is a difficult 'political’ (but mainly socio-economic) issue that Kaurismaki is addressing here (and not one with any easy answers) and he focuses (perhaps unsurprisingly) on the direct human consequences, from the perspective of the migrants and the attitude of Marcel’s local community.
Kaurismaki’s film-making is never less than interesting and here his style is (as ever) very distinctive – with its quirky, off-the-wall sense (viz. his eclectic soundtrack) featuring extended still shots, blank expressions (on those marvellously lived-in visages), deadpan delivery and darkly comic themes, making Le Havre’s look and feel something like a cross between Bresson and The Coens/David Lynch. At the heart of the film is Wilms’ nice turn as the philosophical, devout Good Samaritan, Marcel (surname probably not a coincidence), whose wife Arletty (the outstanding regular Kaurismaki-collaborator, Kati Outinen) has recently been taken ill (potentially fatally), and whose attempts to hide Idrissa from the police are under threat of derailment by Jean-Pierre Darroussin’s officious, but ambiguous, police detective, Monet. There is thus an element of understated 'thriller’ running through Kaurismaki’s film, as well as an authentically drawn picture of the closely-knit Normandy community – locals bickering in the bar around French regionalism, existing immigrants feeling a little insecure ('The Mediterranean has more birth certificates than fish’) and the rallying round of (struggling) local shopkeepers against authority figures (the police) and the sensationalist (baseless) reporting by the media.
Indeed, it is the film’s sense of community spirit that is one of its most abiding features as Elina Salo’s (another Kaurismaki regular) bar-owner Claire suggests Marcel organise a charity concert to raise money for Idrissa’s 'escape’ across the Channel – leading to a great sequence of veteran (Italian) rock n’ roller, Roberto Piazza (local celebrity 'Little Bob’) providing a vibrant musical interlude. For those cineastes out there, also look out for the (now veteran) child-star of Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups, Jean-Pierre Léaud, as a police informer.
All-in-all, not a classic by any means, but with enough emotional engagement, plus Kaurismaki’s idiosyncratic look and feel, to make Le Havre well worth catching.
Le Havre is Kaurismaki's modern fairy-story set in Normandy.It's about an elderly shoe-shine man,Marcel Marx,living with his wife,Arletty and dog,he's devoted to her despite poverty,but they are happy and are surrounded by a supportive community.His wife becomes ill and has to go into hospital,but doesn't want him to know the serious nature of the illness.While he's on his own he comes upon a young illegal immigrant boy,Idrissa, who he lets into his house and looks after away from the Port Authorities.He goes to Calais and contacts Idrissa's granddad,who says his son was meant to be taking Idrissa to London to stay with his auntie,but his son died.He passes on a message to his grandson to obey Marcel. It's a little like Kid With A Bike strangely, people want to help the boy, people are good.There's no great drama or shoot-outs(the first scene is more a visual joke) or sex scenes.Kaurismaki is indebted to Tati(simple café scenes,small groups of people conversing,bright colours)or Renoir or Rene Clement.We also get a very dry take off of a police inspector out of Melville.
The Kafka book of nouvelles read out to Arletty in hospital is the story," Children on a Country Road",which depicts a beautiful return to a lost innocence,and the superb image-"When one joins in a song with others it is like being drawn on by a fish-hook."That's it, the miracle of innocence and goodness in human life,the individual against the impersonality of globalisation and society's restrictions,the support of the down-trodden by the small tribes of decent folk,the smaller things that make life worth living.Andre Wilms is marvellous as Marcel,getting charity from friends,bar people and shop-keepers and organising a charity concert by Little Bob(Jean-Pierre Laud) to get the 3000 Euros he needs to get the boy on a boat to London.Of course Kaurismaki shows in 4 takes at the end a miracle: death become life, worthy of Dreyer.Loved Kati Outinen as Arletty and the dog was simply great and the music was topping!
on 27 October 2012
Writer-director Aki Kaurismaki's latest film Le Havre is a real charmer. A man befriends a young boy, an illegal immigrant who arrives in Le Havre and who is desperate to get to London. The man is going through personal problems of his own - his wife is seriously ill - and he forms a bond with the boy as he tries to help him hide from the law, which is searching for him. The location of the port of Le Havre comes across vividly, and the film has a real charm to it, with gentle humour and an almost fairy-tale clarity. Excellent stuff.
on 11 September 2012
Le Havre [DVD] I bought this film on the recommendations that I read here on Amazon. What a charming and delightful movie this turned out to be. Full of gentle humour and compassion it showed just how good ordinary people are. There were no car chases, sex scenes, foul language - all of which one tires of in the many inane films turned out these days for supposed entertainment. I will watch the film many times with great enjoyment. If you loved "Kolya" you will enjoy this story too.
on 17 August 2012
Master of black comedy and the absurd, Aki Kaurismäki delivers again. As usual the story is quite improbable, absurd even in its detail, but heart warming in its concept. Kaurismäki does not even speak French yet produces this delightful film in partnership with several outstanding French actors. The police inspector is classic Kaurismäki, with his straight face and sinister appearance. Most Kaurismäki films have an element of loss, despair and tragedy but not this one. Yes, it addresses the refugee issue but only as background, the nasty informer is a role we have all come across but the main players are all a delight. I have just about all of Kaurismäki's films on Finnish DVDs and every one is a gem. This joins the list. Do not hesitate if you enjoy this type of comedy. I loved it.
on 4 June 2016
This film is a delight and was rewarded as such with an award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Set in the French port city of Le Havre it tells the story of Marcel Marx, a dropout Bohemian/author, now a shoeshiner, who comes across, befriends, protects and 'liberates' a boy, an illegal immigrant from Africa while we viewers join them in their escapades. Marx and his wife Arletty live in a poor district of the port and are surrounded by neighbours, friends who are as compassionate as they. In these days of epic refugee/asylum seeker movements this film should be revived again - and again. It is a very French film (as only French and Italians can make them) - it pays homage to French icons such as Arletty and Marcel - and it comes as a surprise and delight to discover it was written, produced and directed by Aki Kaurismaki and his Finnish company with international co-producers in France and Germany. Kaurismaki has said he intends Le Havre to be the first of a trilogy - I an hardly wait.