RIFF Review: Le Havre
This newest opus from Finnish legend Aki Kaurismaki, is his first one in a different language than Finnish. Which makes it a bit different from the rest of his oeuvre, notably in the style of acting, but he still maintains some of his style and in many ways this is clearly “un film de Kaurismaki”.
As before, the Finnish maestro tells a story of the underdogs of society. This time the hero is an aged shoe shiner who happens upon a young Gabonese refugee on the run from the law. He gives the boy shelter at his home and winds up trying to help the boy find his family. But the old man also has to deal with a sick wife in the hospital, among other things.
While it may not be Kaurismaki’s best, Le Havre remains a very sweet and funny movie, this is a film that manages to make a lightweight and enjoyable comedy out of a rather serious subject, and gets away with it. It’s not a message movie about the plight of refugees or poor shoeshine men, at least not obviously so, but a tale of friendship, love and human kindness.
The film looks quite nice with a predominance of Kaurismaki’s signature use of turquoise blue and static shots of people standing and saying nothing for a while before doing anything. Kaurismaki’s humour is just as much visual as verbal and the films has many lovely visual gags, like the sight of a government official walking around with a large pineapple for no reason.
The problem is mainly that Kaurismaki isn’t really doing anything new here, he’s basically been doing the same movie for nearly 30 years. While this may be slightly different, mostly due to it being in French, it’s not really much of a stretch for him. It’s a charmer and probably one of his better films (this reviewer has not seen nearly all of his 20 or so films) but a little too much of a trifle to reach true greatness.
Final verdict: A very typical Kaurismaki movie, only it’s in French. But that’s in no way a bad thing as this movie is very charming and funny. It doesn’t amount to much and is really just a trifle, but still quite fun.