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Movie review: 'Le Havre' quietly laughs at France's immigration issue

Published December 8, 2011 4:21 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

What happens when the deadpan Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki tackles a serious topic, such as illegal immigration in France? An even more muted comedy.

Marcel Marx (André Wilms), in his 60s, is a carefree shoeshine man living with his mousy wife, Arietty (Kati Outinen, who co-starred in Kaurismäki's "The Man Without a Past"), in the French port city of Le Havre.

One day, French SWAT teams find a shipping container filled with illegal immigrants from Gabon. One of them, a kid named Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), escapes the dragnet and ends up being sheltered by Marcel.

What follows is a droll look at French attitudes toward immigrants, and toward officialdom, as Marcel and some of his neighbors conspire to hide Idrissa from a jaded local cop (Jean-Pierre Darroussin).

Kaurismäki works a palette filled with flat colors and spartan staging, which allows the laughs (quiet chuckles, really) to emerge from our viewing of the still, expression-filled faces of the characters. —


'Le Havre'

Opens Friday, Dec. 9, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; not rated, but probably PG-13 for language and mature themes; in French with subtitles; 93 minutes.






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