In a seaside Town Far, Far Away... Cinémoi reviews Aki Kaurismäki’s new film Le Havre, a comic drama that feels like a modern day fairytale Aki Kaurismäki’s latest creation is a melange of styles, references and genres of storytelling. The result is something of a modern day set fairytale or fable, outlined with themes of salvation and unlikely friendships, accompanied with strokes of comic merriness. And even though Le Havre is set in the present, Kaurismäki‘s direction harks back to a love of classical French cinema. This loving sense of nostalgia for the films of Carné, Vigo and in some respects the comedy of Tati and Rohmer, is what makes Le Havre so special.
worDS BY JaCK JoNES
When Marcel Marx (André Wilms), a local shoe shiner, comes across a young stowaway in search of British shores, despite the young boy’s misjudgement, Marx takes pity on his situation and decides to help him. Marx is not alone in helping the boy as the local community rallies together against the Border Protection Agency and the intuitive Inspector Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) who is hot on the trail. Meanwhile Marx’s wife Arletty, another reference to some of the cinematic origins that Le Havre is inspired by, is taken seriously ill. Kaurismäki, however, favours a more optimistic tone as all the locals pull together in the way that you would expect a small community to. This warmth of touch is perfectly balanced with a deadpan humour that on the surface might seem out of place considering the subject matter of human-trafficking. But with a script brimming with wit and charm, all is in good hands. Though Wilms and Blondin Miguel work well as the unlikely duo, it is Jean-Pierre Darroussin who is the star. A fantastically watchable screen presence, Darroussin is also a remarkably
versatile performer. Though stern faced and quizzacal as Inspector Monet, Darroussin has exceptional comic timing. Compare this performance to his role as a mundane psychotic in Early One Morning it’s almost as if they were by two entirely different actors. Though Le Havre will be a delight for lovers of French Cinema, it’s interesting to note that this is a French film made by an outsider. An outsider who clearly is a devotee of said films and filmmakers. Kaurismäki is of course very cineliterate in his work, but that does not mean his films aren’t for everyone. Le Havre is no different. This may also be one of the few examples where a film about human trafficking is suitable for a younger audience. With a PG certificate Le Havre should reach a wide audiences. And one hopes it certainly does, as your not going to find many films that bring a genuine smile to your face once the credits roll.
Le Havre is in cinemas and available on Curzon on Demand 6 April via Artificial Eye
“Kaurismäki‘s direction harks back to a love of classical French cinema. This loving sense of nostalgia for the films of Carné, Vigo and in some respects the comedy of Tati and Rohmer, is what makes Le Havre so special.”