Art, Independent, Foreign, and Documentary Film
8:32 am
Fri December 30, 2011

Film Review: "Le Havre"

In the true spirit of global cinema comes a charming and sweet French movie by a Finnish director (Aki Kaurismäki) about a young African refugee.

France's ambiguity about immigration is explored through the eyes (and open heart) of Marcel, an elderly shoe shine man who befriends Idrissa, an 11-year-old boy from Africa whose family came to the country in a shipping container. While they're being discovered by port authorities, Idrissa escapes and manages to elude capture thanks to Marcel's kind gesture: he'll take him into his home to both hide him and fill the void left by Marcel's wife, who's in the hospital fighting cancer.

It's a nice change to see a French film not set in overused Paris, even though Le Havre's and Calais's seedier seams are showing. Besides the fresh story, the movie offers an pleasantly accessible introduction to Kaurismäki's unusual filmmaking style. He's a big fan of extended shots of things like empty doorways. But when this patient gaze is affixed on these very human faces, you can't help but be drawn in.

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