Saturday, December 3, 2011

Le Havre

I was able to see Le Havre on the last evening it played at the Landmark Bridge. As I mentioned, I slept through a good portion of Le Havre when I "saw" it at the French Cinema Now series by the San Francisco Film Society. Le Havre is currently screening at the Landmark Opera Plaza.

I'm glad to say that I stayed awake through every second of Le Havre this time. I wish I had stayed awake the first time because the film wasn't worthy of a second viewing. It was middling fairy tale by noted director Aki Kaurismäki. The plot involved a Bohemian Frenchman in Le Havre who stumbles on an African boy (from Liberia?) who is in the country illegally. Intending to be smuggled into the UK in a shipping container, the container gets lost in paperwork and stranded in Le Havre. The boy runs from the police/immigration authorities when Marcel Marx (André Wilms) meets him. Quickly deciding to hide the boy, Marx takes him to his home. Marx's wife is in the hospital with late stage cancer.

As I watched the film, I though Marx's wife would succumb to her disease and Marx and the boy would form a family unit but Le Havre operates in a mystical realm. The sets look artificial, the dialog is delivered in stilted tones and the plot is idyllic. The "villain" are nameless and faceless people who report the whereabouts of the boy. Tracking the boy is Police Inspector Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) who reluctantly follows up leads regarding the boy's whereabouts.

At times, looking and feeling like a French WWII movie with collaborators turning in Jews to the Gestapo, Le Havre is clearly a pro-immigrant rights film. That aspect is fairly easy to ignore that because of the sentimentality throughout the film.

Wilms, Darroussin and Kati Outinen as Marx's better half head a cast with a number of solid supporting actors. The performances perfectly matched the tone of the film. There was an incongruent sequence featuring a rock-n-roller called Little Bob which looked like 1980's music video but the song wasn't half bad.

By the time the film ended, I was extremely mild about Le Havre. It was a well made film with nice performances which wasn't my cup of tea.

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