Thursday 23 February 2017
Aki Kaurismäki | France/Finland, 2011 | 93 mins | NR | English subtitles
This typically offbeat and deadpan comic yarn from Finnish director Kaurismäki has a singularly old-fashioned look and charm that makes it seem as if it could be set, or indeed have been made, at any time in the last 50 years. But Le Havre concerns itself with a very contemporary theme: northern Europe’s attitude to the plight of refugees and migrants from the global south.
Aging shoe-shiner Marcel Marx (André Wilms) plies his trade around the streets of the French harbor city of Le Havre as best he can. Here his path crosses with that of Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), a young boy on the run from the authorities since he was discovered in a shipping container with dozens of other illegal immigrants.
Despite his modest means, Marcel undertakes to conceal the boy from the officials doggedly pursuing him for deportation, hoodwinking the marvellously ambivalent police inspector in almost farcical silent-movie style.
Kaurismäki’s droll style may not be for everyone, but it in no way undermines the emotional force of this tale; rather it gives it an ingenuous, Chaplinesque simplicity. A political fairy tale that exists somewhere between the reality of contemporary France and the classic French cinema of the past, Le Havre is a warm-hearted delight that boldly flouts cynicism. Perfect viewing for a cold February evening.