Uplifting story a hit at festival
T’S always a treat to welcome a film by Aki Kaurismaki, Finland’s irrepressible master of deadpan humour.
His latest, Le Havre – a hit at the 2011 New York Film Festival – is set in the French port city of the title, home to down-on-his-luck shoeshine man Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms); his ailing wife, Arletty (Kaurismaki muse Kati Outinen); and their lovable mutt, Laika, played by the director’s dog.
Marcel’s low-key life is thrown into disarray when he befriends an African lad, Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), who’s being hunted by the police after escaping from a ship container filled with illegal immigrants.
Marcel’s neighbours join with him to hide and feed the boy. Then they put on a ‘‘trendy charity concert’’ featuring Little Bob, the Elvis of Le Havre, to raise money to smuggle Idrissa to his mother in London.
Kaurismaki, whose charming movies include Leningrad Cowboys Go America and The Match Factory Girl, is able to turn scenes of people staring into space into high art. Who needs dialogue when expressionless faces will do?
He gets strong support from a droll cast that includes Jean-pierre Darroussin as a black-clad cop named Monet, whose gruff exterior hides a genuinely nice guy.
French New Wave icon Jean-pierre Leaud has a funny cameo as an informant.
Le Havre is warm-hearted and uplifting, without being schmaltzy or preachy. And, with its illegal-alien theme, it’s dead-on timely, particularly in Australia.
Marcel Andre Wilms and Idrissa Blondin Miguel in a scene from French film