DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Le Havre, Blu-ray (2011)

A charming, touching film full of Kaurismäki’s deadpan actors and simple but heavy situations.

Published on August 14, 2012

Le Havre, Blu-ray (2011)

Director: Aki Kaurismäki
Cast: Andre Wilms, Blondin Miguel, Kati Outinen, Francois Monnié, Jean-Pierre Darroussin
Studio: The Match Factory/The Criterion Collection 619 [7/31/12]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English
Extras: New interview with Andre Wilms, Press conf. & TV interview from 2011 Cannes Film Festival, Finnish TV interview with Kati Outinen, 2 more concert videos of Little Bob, Theatrical trailer, Illustrated booklet with essay by film critic Michael Sicinski and a new conversation bet. Kaurismäki and film historian Peter von Bagh
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: *****

A charming, touching film full of Kaurismäki’s deadpan actors and simple but heavy situations, filmed in the only part of the Normandy harbor city that wasn’t completely rebuilt after WWII (and which was finally bulldozed after the making of the film). On one level it seems a throwback to some classic French B&W films of the ‘30s and ‘40s.

This comic yarn, presented as a sort of fairy tale, has at its core Marcel, a kindly elder bohemian who shines shoes with a Vietnamese sidekick. He’s part of a poor but tight-knit community, whose characters can ban together for a cause. That cause fatefully comes about in the person of a young Sengalese refugee, Idrissa, who escapes a shipping container in which he was to be smuggled to England, but didn’t quite make it. Marcel offers the boy food and then his home, keeps him away from the seemingly suspicious police inspector, visit detained emigres in prison to learn more, and eventually assembles the sympathetic neighborhood to hold a benefit rock concert (featuring the elderly “Little Bob’) to raise the money to pay a boat captain to smuggle Idressa to London.

Not only is the part of the town dated-looking and run down, but Kaurismäki doesn’t like modern cars and uses only old ones in his film. And you won’t see any car chases. Of course everybody smokes; it’s a French film though made by a Finn – so get over it. A side story of the film on the European problem of the emigres is a supposedly terminal ailment which strikes Marcel’s wife, but from which she recovers since this is a fairy tale. Kaurismäki is not exactly a cooperative interview for the TV or press conference, but the Cannes footage in the extras will give a better idea of his unusual nature and opinions. Wilms is a wonderful actor and his interview is also quite revealing.

—John Sunier

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