French comedy, winner of the International Critics Prize at Cannes 2011, following the friendship between a shoeshiner and an illegal immigrant boy. Click here for movie times.
Aki Kaurismäki is one of Finland’s finest writer / directors – a master of the absurd with films like Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989); Hamlet Goes Business (1987) and Drifting Clouds (1996). The location may have moved from Helsinki to the French port of Le Havre, but Kaurismäki has lost none of his surreal comic zest in translation.
An aging shoe-shiner, Marcel Marx (a superb André Wilms), befriends Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), a young refugee fresh off the boat from Africa and aids him in evading the authorities. A simple plot, yes, but realised in Kaurismäki’s cinematic world-view; in which telephones have rotary dials, cameras sport bulbs and detectives wear hats and long coats. The colours are sumptuously saturated and every frame betrays a careful construction reminiscent of the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen and Amélie). Le Havre has never looked so appealing as through cinematographer Timo Salminen’s lens.
Part character comedy, part cat-and-mouse chase, Le Havre effortlessly blends pitch-black Finnish humour with French joie de vivre and absurdist scenes with stark reality. The film is never less than an absorbing, enjoyable, and offbeat drama that offers an ideal introduction to the work of Kaurismäki for the uninitiated and a superb addition for lovers of the Finnish master’s ouvre. It can be slow at times but as an antidote to Hollywood explosions and two-dimensional characterisations, you’d be hard pressed to find a more satisfying and thoroughly entertaining way to entertain your brain.