Kaurismaki’s first film in five years, Le Havre was a delectable paean to the working class and the dispossessed. Instead of the black humour that permeated most of his famed works, this had an instantly warm and endearing tone, even in its decidedly leftist leaning and expression of apathy towards rabid nationalism. The aptly named Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms) – who had previously appeared in his La Vie de Bohème – is a former poet who now earns his living through polishing shoes in the eponymous port town, and lives with his doting wife (Kati Outinen). When his wife falls sick and is hospitalized, Marcel befriends a young African refugee boy who had been on his way to London in a container. Through his natural sense of compassion, he doesn’t just provide shelter to the homeless boy, he also starts finding ways of arranging for his transit to London where his mother lives. Meanwhile, Inspector Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), who has been entrusted with the responsibility of unearthing the kid, starts becoming suspicious of Marcel, but his task become tough on account of the support of his working class neighbours. Kaurismaki filled the film with his characteristic deadpan humour, quirky characters and idiosyncratic developments while painting a picture of a world filled with marginalized communities and where the authorities are increasingly intolerant of outsiders. Wonderfully enacted by all, including the supporting cast, vibrantly shot and excellently scored, it comprised of particularly memorable dynamics between Marx and Monet (no puns intended) – with the finale being highly reminiscent of the beloved classic Casablanca. Jean-Pierre Léaud made a cameo appearance as a xenophobic man.
Director: Aki Kaurismaki
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Social Satire