Friday, 13 January 2012

Le Havre

No one makes quirky comedy dramas like the French. Le Havre is a prime example, though it was written and directed by Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki. Le Havre tells the story of an older man (Marcel Marx, played by Andre Wilms) in Le Havre who befriends an African boy who arrived in the French port city illegally (inside a shipping container).

Marcel makes his meager income shining shoes on the street and steals (i.e. buys on credit) bread and fruit from the neighbourhood shops on his way home to his wife, Arletty, who does all the cooking and cleaning. Marcel is both loved and tolerated by his neighbours, but things change when Arletty is diagnosed with cancer and Marcel befriends the boy. Both of these events elicit sympathy from most of the working-class community, even the local hard-nosed police inspector (played by the brilliant French actor Jean-Pierre Darroussin), and soon everyone is helping Marcel keep the boy out of the hands of the authorities.

This quirky film works on various levels. It is beautifully filmed and acted, it has many scenes which bring a smile to your face, it’s a wonderful representation of a compassionate community and it questions the way refugees and immigrants are treated by the French government, a very timely issue in western Europe today. For all of these reasons, Le Havre is an excellent film, though it was, for me, just a little too simple and too odd to take it to the four-star level.

Le Havre gets a solid ***+. My mug is up.

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