Harvey Critic - 19/10

LE HAVRE, Grade: B

Aki Kaurismäki is not a household name, but those who know him might say he'd attract the crowd that would go for the films of Jean-Luc Godard. His shtick could be called dry' he has a predilection for black humor, though a dry fatalism would be the most accurate term based on some of his previous films. By fatalism I mean that he holds the philosophy that the events of the world are predetermined and little that we individuals can do will change things. His view that the world is silly-a human comedy, as it were-is evoked from some of the titles of his films such as "Leningrad Cowboys Go America," about Finnish musicians who seek fame and fortune in America, and "Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana," about a pair of Finns searching for coffee and vodka without which they consider life without meaning.

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Janus Films

Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten
Grade: B

Directed By: Aki Kaurismäki
Written By: Aki Kaurismäki
Cast: André Wilms, Kati Outinen, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Blondin Miguel, Elina Salo, Evelyne Didi
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 9/28/11
Opens: October 21, 2011

Yet several principals in "Le Havre," named after the port city in France's northwest Brittany region, commit themselves to decisions that may not lead to peace in the world but which clearly change some lives for the better. While you get involved in the basic plotting of "Le Havre," its unique qualities are the way that the characters are framed, and the deadpan way they talk-which should give the audience some broad smiles, maybe a few chuckles, but scarcely a belly laugh. In other words this is a comedy that would not appeal to those who believe that custard-pie, food-fight, banana-peel hysterics are the sine qua non of TV and movies.

"Le Havre" has the tone of the 50's and early 60's, a celebration what of one undistinguished fellow can do to make a small segment of the world a better place. Marcel Marx (André Wilms), a self-described bohemian at an earlier time, lives in a shack with his wife, Arletty (Kati Outinen), barely scraping by as a shoe-shine man, a mooch, and a bread thief. The inspector, Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), seems like a modern Javert, the perfect cop enforcing the laws regardless of their silliness. When Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), a teen boy who smuggles himself into France from Gabon, is sought by police for deportation back to Africa, his escape from the authorities is aided by the nice people in the neighborhood such as Marcel, his chief pal Chang (Quoc Dung Nguyen), the grocer (François Monnié), and Marcel's dog, Laïka. In the picture's one serious note, Marcel's wife Arletty is ill with stomach cancer, hiding the seriousness of her condition with the help of Doctor Becker (Pierre Étaix).

Kaurismäki's cast for the most part never get excited but deliberately deliver their lines with all the emotion of performers during the French Neo-classical age, as though giving speeches or rehearsing for a play-all in the service of the dry humor that permeates the project. This is a feel-good pic without the two-Kleenex pretentions of TV's Hallmark Hall of Fame, and that's all good.

Unrated. 93 minutes. © 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online © 2011 Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online.

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