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Le Havre

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Le Havre
Strand Releasing
Aki Kaurismäki (The Man Without a Past)returns with another understated, wry film. Le Havre is set in Le Havre, a French city on the English channel. The Finnish director has left his native country for France, but he took with him one regular cast member, the marvelous Kati Outinen. He is also taking on a serious subject -- a boy, an escaped refugee from Africa running from capture -- but retains his sense of humor. The result is what you would hope for: an odd, funny, and moving experience.
Marcel Marx (André Wilms) is a shoe shiner by profession, or you could say, a bit of a bum. He has a saintly -- and also sickly -- wife (Outinen) who loves him dearly, who not only cooks him meals when he returns at the end of a day shining shoes, but also gives him money to buy a drink at the bar while she cooks it.

It’s a snapshot of an gently impoverished and also happy life -- set in a timeless world where records are played on record players, the town appears to be one large set, and the interiors of bars and apartments show not a single modern trace. And yet, the palette of the film, shot in technicolor, is extra bright. It is a life that is marked by two major events. First, Marx discovers young Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) hiding beneath the docks, eluding capture from the police. Then, his beatific wife enters the hospital for what appears to be a deadly illness - though she reassures her husband that she will be fine.

Le Havre is surprisingly suspenseful. One sad and gentle police officer (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) diligently follows Marx, in pursuit of the boy. Marx’s devoted wife Arletty instructs him to visit in two weeks time with her favorite dress -- but will she be still alive to wear it?

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