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Le Havre (Criterion Collection)
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"Le Havre" (93 min.) centers around the ordinary lives of people like Marcel Marx (which character incidentally also appears in La Vie de Boheme and where he also was played by André Wilms). Marx tries to get by as a shoe-shiner, but life is hard. The house he and his wife Arletty have is modest at best. Then one day a group of illegal immigrants from Gabon are found in a container waiting to be shipped to London. A teenage boy manages to escape the police and eventually the boy and Marcel Marx link up. I don't want to spoil the plot any further than this, you'll just have to see how it all plays out for yourself.
This is not an "action" movie. Instead, it observes the ordinary lives of ordinary people, and in addition it is a love note of sorts to the city of Le Havre, which, like the characters in this movie, has seen better days but remains resilient. This movie was very well received at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and it is easy to see why. The acting is superb throughout, none better than by lead actor André Wilms. I enjoyed this movie from start to finish, but obviously this is not for anyone in a hurry or looking for the next Harry Potter franchise. Highly recommended!
One day Marcel meets Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), a young refugee boy from Gabon running away from the police. While Marcel decides to raise money so that the boy can meet his mother in London, Arletty, ill and now in the hospital, conceals a fact that she knows would shock her husband.
The theme of "Le Havre" overlaps that of a 2009 French film "Welcome," but Kaurismäki's approach is less political, focusing the everyday life of ordinary people, described with Kaurismäki's deadpan humor/sentimentality. Kaurismäki's longtime photographer Timo Salminen's careful use of muted colors is another plus, adding a realistic touch to the modern-day fable.
André Wilms (who 20 years ago played "Marcel," a down-and-out artist in Paris in Kaurismäki's "La Vie de Bohème") turns in quiet and understated performance as the aged shoe shiner determined to do something for the boy. Kati Outinen, the director's muse since the 1980s, is also outstanding as the protagonist's ailing wife, and so is Jean-Pierre Darroussin as Monet, softer version of Inspector Javert trying to catch the boy.
I like the film for its positive, life-affirming message, though I for one prefer such films as "The Man without a Past" and "Ariel," in which darker events happen and characters have to struggle more. Perhaps with an exception of cameo Jean-Pierre Léaud, there is no "villain" in "Le Havre," which marks a new phase in the respected director's long career.
A cargo ship unloads a container ultimately headed for London. Authorities discover it contains 20 or so people from North Africa. One teen age boy (Blondin Miguel) manages to get away and finds his way to Marcel while he is having his lunch. Marcel shelters and feeds the boy even though he worries about the authorities ultimately catching him and deporting him back to Africa. He also has to contend with his wife (Kati Outinen) who is in the hospital for what appears to be stomach cancer. Her prognosis is grim but she hides the probable outcome from Marcel.
Using his sympathetic neighbors and an unlikely police detective (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) for support, Marcel finds out that young Idrissa was enroute to London to reunite with his mother. He manages to get a neighbor and former headliner rock musician Little Bob to hold a fund raiser in order to pay to have the boy smuggled into England. Kaurismaki, who also wrote the script, never plays this too serious. But it's not a comedy either. You really have to think of it more as a fantasy. And a good one it is. The film ends with an unexpected surprise. Check it out.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was such a great movie; a light hearted yet sincere look into what it is like to be a refugee.Published 1 month ago by Katie
A wonderful movie that has everything and so well honored on the Criterion Colllection version. It will be viewed countless timesPublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
About relationships, sharing, mutuality and another way of leading your life if you care - a great French film. Read morePublished 17 months ago by david
One person is gunned down before the title is over. Unrelieved grittiness for the next ten minutes, after which I gave up. Maybe it's true to life in Le Havre; I wouldn't know. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Anne L. Watson
Nothing profound here and pretty predictable but I enjoyed it. Nice, sweet feel good movie that highlights the good in human nature - a nice movie to watch with kids. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Gilgamesh