Aki Kaurismäki returns to France
The famous Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki returns to France after his Bohemian Life made back in 1992. His new movie in under the title of Le Havre – name of a port city in Normandy, where the plot is taking place. The main character is Marcel Marx an elderly shoe-shiner, who describes himself as Parisien bohemian writer in his earlier life. That`s why this movie can be found as a continuation of Bohemian Life, where the main character is also Marcel, bohemic poet from Paris performed by the same actor André Wilms.
So the story of Le Havre goes around Marcel, who shines the shoes at the day times, later he meets his only friends in his favourite bar and finally comes back to his poor, but cozy home looked by his long loving housewife Arletty (Kaurismäki`s long time muse Kati Outinen impersonates her). But one day lots of things changes. Arletty gets a serious disease and must go to the hospital. Meanwhile Marcel starts to take care of a boy, illegal immigrant from Africa. The boy needs to reach his mother in London – Mr. Marx tries to help him, although he has a lack of money.
Kaurismäki stays faithful to himself – he continues to film the same three decade long movie. Even though the movie action is taking place in France of nowadays (euros are showed many times to emphasize that), Kaurismäki`s aesthetics remains the same as always – some cars, clothing, interiors from 70`s. In Le Havre the director also uses light in the way that only he does – all the pale interiors always looks dusky, kind of abandoned. Nearly the only director of nowadays visually similar to Kaurismäki is Jim Jarmusch, especially his Permanent Vocation. Also in Le Havre Mr. director is not throwing away his common themes – proletarian lifestyle and its problems, delicate political overtones. The political aspect this time is immigration. The government, the society and the media are satirically criticized for its insobriety about the immigrants, about their fear of terrorism and etc.
Aki Kaurismäki can`t drop the movie without adding at least one scene from the rock n’ roll concert of some strange look performers. Also the scenes in the smoky completely unluxurious bars with glasses of alcohol and inextinquishable cigarettes in people`s hands can`t be forgotten. It`s always so in the personal Kaurismäki`s cinematographical reality.
The director`s movies are completely different from what the comedy is usually considered to be for the mass audiences – no cakes thrown into somebody`s faces, no jokes about pussies. His delicate comedies, as Le Havre, is full of black-humor and small humorious details. For example, the Finnish director makes the policeman, who is buying an ananas, look so funny. So the director`s black humor comedies are really sophisticated. In Le Havre genre of the comedy mixes with drama, but this using of drama genre looks more like its parody.
Camera also remains static – it`s also as screenplay simplified to the essential. Acting is elegantly mannered, emotions are so concentrated, that it looks like nearly non emotional. The feelings and lineaments of the characters are told through the little details in dialogues or their actions. For example, we can understand that Arletty loves Marcel very much, because we see her always taking care of her husband by cooking food or cleaning his shoes (though, he is a shoe-shiner). The strangest thing in the movie is that Finnish actress Kati Outinen was considered to perform as Arletty, Marcel`s wife, even though her French pronunciation is terrible. But as it is not the only thing that completely doesn`t fit – as I said, meanwhile the plot goes forward in France of nowadays, the scenography and things used are straight from the 70`s in Finland. And these small imbalances goes to the absurd, but if the viewer conforms Kaurismäki`s rules, he/she might have a great enjoyment. Believing in what`s happening, even though it`s nonsense, is absurd itself. That`s how Kaurismäki is a genius.
Aki Kaurismäki doesn`t need to shit into somebody`s soul to express the topical ideas. Shitting into souls through showing violence, sexual perversities and things like that became common in European cinema, so Aki remains a punk because of always staying positive and humanistic.
by Jorė Janavičiūtė
Dir. of Photography: Timo Salminen
André Wilms, Kati Outinen, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Blondin Miguel, Elina Salo, Evelyne Didi, Quoc-Dung Nguyen