Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Le Havre

Written and directed by Aki Kaurismaki, Le Havre is the story about a shoe-shiner who finds an immigrant boy in a French port as he tries to protect him from authorities. The film explores a man trying to do what is right for a boy while dealing with his own life. Starring Andre Wilms, Kati Outinen, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Pierre Etaix, and Jean-Pierre Leaud. Le Havre is a delightful comedy-drama from Aki Kaurismaki.

The film is about this middle-aged shoe-shiner who lives in the port town on Le Havre where he discovers a young African boy in his home hiding from immigration. While his wife is in the hospital over a mysterious illness, he and his friends do whatever to hide the boy from the authorities as an inspector is also looking for the boy as he is very ambiguous about his duties. It’s a film where this old man tries to do what he thinks is right as he’s also someone that is very kind and generous including to the people in his neighborhood. Realizing that this boy just wants to go to London to be with his mother, the man known as Marcel (Andre Wilms) does what he can with the help of his friends as he is also dealing with his ailing wife Arletty (Kati Outinen).

The film’s script is quite simple as Aki Kaurismaki doesn’t do a lot of plotting while bringing out some suspense in the story. There’s bits of humor in the film but also a lot of drama where it relates to not just Marcel’s conflict but also the presence of the inspector named Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) who is always looking around yet does manage to confront Marcel about what he’s doing but in a very subtle manner as he also warns him about other forces that is also going after the boy. It would lead to Marcel trying to do what is right as he travels to Chalais to meet with the boy’s grandfather to see what he can do to help this boy and make sure that the grandfather can be relieved to know that his grandson is somewhere safe.

Kaurismaki’s direction is very simplistic in the way he presents the film while making the port town of Le Havre a character in the film where it is unique as it is this melting pot of sorts where there’s the French but also people from other parts of Europe as well as Asia yet they all enjoy their company. While there aren’t many Africans in the town, they do hang around every once in a while though the Africans are aware that authorities are watching them. Kaurismaki does add an energy to some of the suspense as well as creating something that does sort of play like an adventure story. Even as Marcel is trying to deal with his wife as he doesn’t know how serious her illness is. It would play into this third act where Marcel does do some drastic things with the help of friends as well as a unique outcome of the good deed that he does as it recalls elements of classic Hollywood of the early 20th Century. Overall, Kaurismaki creates a very exhilarating yet engaging film about a man trying to help a young immigrant boy from the dark forces of immigration.

Cinematographer Timo Salminen does amazing work with the cinematography as it has this very distinctive yet colorful look that recalls some of the visual traits of the American films of the 1950s and the European films of the 70s where it‘s quite rich in some of its interiors while being very simple in its exterior daytime scenes. Editor Timo Linnasalo does excellent work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward while using . Art director Wouter Zoon does nice work with the set pieces from the home of Marcel to the places he goes to in his neighborhood.

Costume designer Fred Cambier does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with a few colorful clothes including the stuff the boy would wear in the film. The sound work of Tero Malmberg is superb for creating a low-key yet natural atmosphere for the locations including the sound of ships and police sirens. The film’s soundtrack is a mixture of classical music, blues, rock, and African-based music to play up the different worlds the characters live in.

The film’s cast is brilliant as it features some notable appearances from Jean-Pierre Leaud as a snooty neighbor snooping on Marcel, legendary filmmaker Pierre Etaix as a doctor examining Arletty, singer Roberto Piazza as himself known as Little Bob who plays a charity show to help Marcel get the boy to London, Francois Monnie as a local grocer who helps Marcel, Elina Salo as a barmaid who is also a friend of Marcel but also knows the inspector, Quoc Dung Nguyen as a fellow shoe shiner/immigrant who also helps Marcel, Evelyne Didi as Yvette who also helps Marcel in supplying food and such, and the dog Laika as herself as she becomes a companion for Marcel and the boy. Kati Outinen is wonderful as Marcel’s ailing wife Arletty who tries to deal with her illness as well as what might happen.

Blondin Miguel is excellent as the boy Idrissa as a young kid trying to go to London and hide from the authorities as is he is given shelter by Marcel and his friends while he returns the favor by helping them with small jobs and such. Jean-Pierre Darroussin is superb as the inspector Monet who looks for Idrissa while knowing that Marcel is hiding him as he is also concerned about the moral implications of what to do with this boy. Finally, there’s Andre Wilms as Marcel Marx as a man who is trying to do what is right while dealing with the illness of his wife as he fills his time to help a boy go to London as it’s a very charming and tremendous performance from Wilms.

Le Havre is a remarkable film from Aki Kaurismaki that features brilliant performances from Andre Wilms and Jean-Pierre Darroussin. The film isn’t just a look into the world of immigration issues but also a captivating story of a man trying to help a boy through these troubling circumstances. Even as it is a film that shows the kindness of people who just want to do what is right including those who seem like the most unlikely person to do such a good deed. In the end, Le Havre is a heartwarming yet phenomenal film from Aki Kaurismaki.

Aki Kaurismaki Films: (Crime and Punishment (1983 film)) - (Calamari Union) - Shadows in Paradise - (Hamlet Goes Business) - (Ariel) - (Leningrad Cowboys Go America) - (Dirty Hands) - (The Match Factory Girl) - (I Hired a Contract Killer) - (La Vie de Boheme) - (Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana) - Total Balalaika Show -(Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses) - (Drifting Clouds) - (Juha) - (The Man Without a Past) - (Lights in the Dusk)

© thevoid99 2013

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