A funny, resonant film from the Finnish master
Thursday, September 8, 9:30 p.m.
Visa Screening Room (189 Yonge Street)
Friday, September 9, 1 p.m.
Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West)
At once stylistically retro and thematically contemporary, dryly funny but never un-serious, Le Havre finds Kaurismäki working at the peak of his talents. Set in the titular Norman port city, the film follows a former-bohemian and aging-shoeshine, Marcel Marx (André Wilms) as he bums around sipping wine, buying baguettes on credit, and doting on his ailing wife (Kati Outinen). Marcel’s routine is thrown for a loop (however slightly) when he happens across Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), an adolescent African boy who has escaped from a misplaced shipping container and is on the lam from the immigration authorities. Marcel takes the boy into his home and plots a safe route to England, where Idrissa can reunite with his mother.
Le Havre is the rare film that is deeply, abundantly compassionate without being sentimental. Like a sharp, sardonic version of Our Town, Kaurismäki presents the cobblestone alleys and dilapidated picket fences of Le Havre with a tenderness that pairs perfectly with his very deliberately molded compositions. Wilms, Miguel, and Jean-Pierre Darroussin, as a complaisant detective tracking down Idrissa, put in remarkable performances. Most impressively, though, Kaurismäki handles the delicate, of-the-moment subject matter with style and grace, without lapsing into preachiness or flippancy. It also boasts a hilarious, tone-setting opening shoeshine sequence that could itself win any short-film prize on the planet.