Le Havre Review and Trailer

“I heard about your husband. My condolences.”
“What for? He was a fatalist.”

This is what cinema is about.

Aki Kaurismäki is a singularly unique filmmaker. He is a master of tone, and the tone in “Le Havre” is so complicated and beautiful, and adds further to the excellence of the film. It is full of counterpoint, that old concept adapted to film by Eisenstein and perfected by Kurosawa – but the counterpoint in this film goes further than just sound to image. It also is stylized so heavily, with such bright, vibrant colours, which contrasts with the often dark themes. This darkness itself contrasts with the charming and wittiness which the film is full of.

The plot and characters are all subdued and well written. It often feels like that of the French New Wave, which was also a feeling I got when I first saw Kaurismäki’s film “Ariel”. It is fitting, then, to see the character titled “The Denouncer” to be none other than Jean-Pierre Léaud, famous for his discovery by François Truffaut and his portrayal of Antoine Doinelle in the 4 and a half film series.

The characters’ interactions are often surreal, but yet with as much charm, in the main characters anyway, as was present in 1950’s Hollywood films. The momentary glimpses we get into the random lives of people in the background are fantastic, whether it is random people arguing about where they are from in a bar, or priests arguing over Jesus while they get their shoes shined.

I mentioned the stylized nature of the film, but it deserves another. Everything is so heavily stylized, as to let us know that this world could not possibly exist in real life – everything, from the buses, to a random accordion, to the pay phone he uses, to the colour of his house, to the colours of the buildings, even if run down, are vibrant and present. It adds to the somewhat extraordinary story, and perhaps at times justifies it.

The themes it discusses, particularly of xenophobia and immigration, while not in the slightest bashing one over the head with it, are extremely relevant today in perhaps every European country, but particularly France. France has a historically strongarmed way of dealing with immigration – see the recent deportation of the Roma (gypsy) population back to Romania, regardless of where they were actually born.

Everyone should see this film.

For more about this film’s storylines and themes check out fellow Bay Area writer Pamela Alexander-Beutler’s review at Examiner.com.


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Categories: Reviews

4 Comments on “Le Havre Review and Trailer”

  1. November 7, 2011 at 11:04 am #


    • Tom Ellis
      November 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm #


  2. Adam Cuttler
    November 8, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    Uh huh.


  1. Movie Review: ‘Le Havre’ (2011) … touching, arresting and wry film | New Movie Reviews - November 11, 2011

    […]  I’ve focused on the storyline and themes. For more about the filmmaking and cinematography, check out Tom Ellis’s review at Filmbalaya.com.  […]

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