Opening 8 Sep 2011
Here is another small, quiet, French (and Finnish/German) film about simple people in need. Marcel has retired to the French port city of Le Havre where he takes care of his sick wife and earns a humble living as a shoe-shine boy (man) on street corners. In the port, a huge ship docks; it is unexpectedly full of stowaway refugees from Africa. The authorities scratch their heads and make plans to send them somewhere else, preferably back home. One small boy, named Idrissa, escapes and hides. Marcel, who has an antenna for others, realizes that there is a human being nearby and leaves food. Eventually, the boy and the man meet and from that point Idrissa’s future in France is secure. Although the authorities look for him, Marcel and his friends put up a united front of resistances to hide and help him and the authorities give up the search.
Director Aki Kaurismäki is from Finland but filmed on location in Le Havre; stars are André Wilms and Blondin Miguel. The photography carries the film with shots of the harbor and the individual characters – each one a real personality, even with wrinkles. Every shot could be a painting. There is a plug for French wine and afterwards, you will steer to the nearest fine restaurant for a glass of 2005 Domaine de Courbissac. The international film critics (FIPRESCI) named it best film at the 2011 Cannes film festival. It should have been filmed in Hamburg's harbor, where it could have been just as impressive. (Becky Tan)
Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki uses a modern situation of a container full of illegal immigrants to tell a very traditional religious story. The story itself takes place on the Bretagne Coast where Marcel Max (Andre Wilms) makes a simple living by polishing shoes. It is a hard job since people nowadays are not wearing leather shoes and often he is not authorized to work on every street corner. But, despite the hardships and low pay, he never complains. He reminds me of a faithful dog who always is there, and strangely enough, his wife is just like him. When a container is discovered and the young boy Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) escapes and hides from the police, Marcel’s life takes a drastic turn. Marcel discovers that his wife has cancer and this boy needs a passage to England. For the first time in his life he can’t be passive and must react in order to be there for the two of them.
The film is very low key and perhaps even a bit slow paced; but, like this boy who appears to need help, reality rewards Marcel for his faith and courage. It is quite a rewarding tale. This film won the Fipresci prize for best film, and my reward for watching this film in French was I actually could understand everything that was said. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)