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06 Apr 2012
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Marcel and Arletty's quiet, economically impoverished but motionally rich life is disrupted when she is diagnosed with a serious disease. At the same time, Marcel takes a young illegal immigrant under his wing. So begins Aki Kaurismäki's masterpiece, which champions the downtrodden and celebrates the smaller things that make life worth living. A glorious, colourful and deeply humane work.
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LE HAVRE (Finland/France/GermanyPG/93mins)
Directed by Aki Kaurismaki. Starring Andre Wilms, Blondin Miguel, Elina Salo, Kati Outinen, Eveylne Didi, Quoc Dung Nguyen, Laika.
THE PLOT: Aging shoe shiner Marcel (Wilms) knows all about not being wanted (as he’s bustled away from yet another shoe shop front) and the struggle to make ends meet. He’s also lucky enough to know the simple pleasures of life, such as a drink with a friendly barmaid and a good home-cooked meal with a good wife (Outinen), and a small group of good neighbours. So, when Marcel happens upon a young African refugee, Idrissa (Miguel), it isn’t long before he’s hiding the fugitive from the authorities. It might just help Marcel not think about the fact that his beloved wife is in hospital, and unwilling to tell him exactly what’s wrong, but the neighborhood are as one when it comes to keeping Idrissa safe and out of harm’s way until they can help him on to his relatives in London…
THE VERDICT: Having failed to land on the Oscar Foreign Film shortlist, but Aki Kaurismaki’s unassuming and ramshackle fable swept major prizes elsewhere, including Finland’s annual Jussi Awards, where it took six prizes, including best film. What initially plays like parody - Marcel appears to live not in Le Havre but Sesame Street, akin to Amelie with all the magic realism taken out – turns out to be a homage to old-fashioned filmmaking. Kaurismaki set out to deliver a movie world here, as opposed to a real world. When Marcel and co need to raise some money, they put on a charity concert, headlined by Italian rock legend Little Bob – who comes across as a blend of Johnny Halliday and a shaven Ewok. It’s that kind of movie. Just about saved by some humble performances, a little dry wit and some endearing amateurism (this is a film where you can really hear people slop their food), Le Havre is a film to be admired more than actually enjoyed.RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne
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