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

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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.