A change of scenery from Helsinki to the French coast has helped Aki Kaurismäki deliver an urban fairy-tale that’s one of his most cherishable films to date. The characteristically retro art direction and Kaurismäki’s old-school craftsmanship recall Hollywood’s golden age, yet the joy of the film is how its utterly classic visuals serve a story which could hardly be more current.
André Wilms’ likeable middle-aged shoe-shiner – improbably but pointedly named Marcel Marx – is thrown off-kilter by the sudden illness of his wife (Kaurismäki regular Kati Outinen), so when a young Senegalese boy (Blondin Miguel) who’s escaped a people-smuggling ring arrives on his patch needing help, it’s hardly the best timing. As the presence of dogged police inspector Monet (the ever-splendid Jean-Pierre Darroussin) intensifies the suspense, Marcel and his neighbours do their best to pull through, allowing Kaurismäki to paint a picture of community values and human decency that Jean Renoir himself would surely have recognised. Le Havre is an absolutely lovely film. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)
FRENCH FILM CLUBFrench Film Club screening of this film on Monday, April 16th at 21.00. Discounted €7 tickets for IFI and Alliance Française members are available at Box Office.