NYFF Spotlight: Le Havre
Posted by Lu Chen on 9.22.2011
Why you should see it:
Le Havre is a busy Normandy port and a major transit point for cargo traveling to Great Britain. It is also a music town—in the words of director Aki Kaurismäki, the "city of blues and soul and rock 'n' roll." In Le Havre, the Finnish filmmaker addresses the increasing social problems surrounding the influx of refugees looking for better lives in Europe, treating it with his signature light and elegant touch. Centering on an unlikely but life-changing friendship between an aging ex-bohemian shoe shiner, tellingly named Marcel Marx (veteran French actor André Wilms), and an African boy on his way to search for his mother in London (Blondin Miguel), the film also features a supporting cast of endearingly eccentric characters, typical of a Kaurismäki film. Other classic Kaurismäki traits are on display too: his wit, deadpan humor, nostalgic romanticism and, of course, meticulous attention to detail. The black-clad inspector, turbulent protests and modest working-class homes, bars, and storefronts are counterbalanced by the red roses Marcel brings to his bedridden wife, the colorful clothes and food of a seaside African community, and a climactic "trendy charity concert" featuring an authentic local rock legend named Little Bob. Glowing colors, sublime lighting and crisp pace all add wonder to this world of miracles. From its humble beginnings, the heartwarming story evolves into a semi-realistic fairy tale of morality and everyday activism.
Le Havre has won the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes Film Festival and the Arri-Zeiss-Award at Munich Film Festival. It has been shown at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Telluride Film Festival. It is also Finland's entry for the foreign language category of the 2012 Academy Awards.
About the director:
Aki Kaurismäki is a Finnish director and screenwriter known for his deadpan comedies. He gained worldwide notice with Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989). His film The Man Without a Past (NYFF '02) won the Cannes Grand Prix. His style has been influenced by the French directors Jean-Pierre Melville and Robert Bresson, and is often compared to American indie great Jim Jarmusch.
What the critics are saying:
Kirk Honeycutt for The Hollywood Reporter: "Competition films at Cannes can be many things but seldom would you describe them as pure pleasure. Aki Kaurismaki's Le Havre is that rare exception . . . Le Havre offers moviegoers an enchanted port in the storm, a cinematic refuge from real life where good intentions are enough."
Leslie Felperin for Variety: "On its own terms, 'Le Havre' is a continual pleasure, seamlessly blending morose and merry notes with a deftness that's up there with Kaurismaki's best comic work."
What the NYFF programmers say:
"Le Havre is a film made in France by the Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki, a frequent New York Film Festival guest, known for his dry, deadpan comedies. This one is about a Parisian author living in exile in Le Havre who crosses paths with a young African immigrant boy who’s on the run from immigration. And the author, who is looking for a sense of purpose in his life, tries to help the boy get to London, where his mother is waiting for him. It’s a very warm, gentle comedy that Kaurismäki says was inspired by his own desire to have lived during the French Resistance. So it’s kind of a story of resistance in the present day—very funny, very droll, with a scene-stealing dog. One of two movies we have with a scene-stealing dog. The other is The Artist. If they both show up, we may have to put plastic down on the red carpet." —Scott Foundas, Associate Program Director