Saturday, December 3, 2011

Le Havre

I've never seen an Aki Kaurismaki movie before, but I've heard much of his style. "Le Havre" displays a unbendingly quirky filmmaker, who lets in only flashes of the world outside the titular French locale. Though definitely pretty amusing at times, "Le Havre"'s happy-go-lucky demeanor undermines a lot of possible interest and suspense, and the film feels very surface-deep. Yet Andre Wilms' superb lead performance redeems things, making the mood of innocuousness feel human and not manufactured.

Wilms plays Marcel Marx, a shoeshiner beloved in his neighborhood but with little money (he's run up insanely large tabs at all the stores in the vicinity of his house that he'll never pay). He lives a modest life with his wife Arletty (Kari Outinen), always cleaning and cooking, and his dog Laika (credited as Laika; Kaurismaki's dog perhaps?). This balance is complicated by two major events: his wife getting really sick and having to be hospitalized, and the finding and taking in of an on-the-run African immigrant named Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) who is looking to find his mother in London.

The idea works better in practice than in theory, but all the same, the freedoms that the movie seems to be on the verge of giving its characters are shut out (by Kaurismaki's intense devotion to his method, no less). The fact that I'm even talking about these things though represents an atmospheric success remarked upon by other critics: the sense of place here is quite solid. But things never come alive to quite the degree that they could, though having Little Bob meet up with his estranged wife (who is supposedly his wife in real life as well) is a nice, interesting way of opening the movie up. B

1 comment:

Greg said...

I enjoyed this film much more than you, mainly because of the humanity that shines through it, especially in the sense of community and loyalty that the immigrant community in France show to each other in helping Marcel with Idrissa.