With a mise-en-scène (can’t believe I just wrote “mise-en-scène”) suffused in red, white and blue, Aki Kaurismaki’s funny and moving new film, “Le Havre,” follows Marcel Marx (an educated writer and bohemian, happy in a simple life, working as a shoe shiner) as he involves his friends and neighbors in the French seaport in his plan to thwart the authorities from deporting a young African boy and help the adolescent leave France and reunite with his mother in London.
With little snark or cynicism (except that aimed peripherally at politicians and the church), but with his trademark deadpan humor intact, Kaurismaki creates a world of solidarity, optimism and love in Le Havre’s fisherman’s quarter. His deceptively simple compositions suggest a slightly crazed, color version of Bresson, as the colors of the French flag repeat endlessly and everywhere: walls, clothing, food–even a red stamp pad at a benefit concert featuring French rocker, Little Bob, wearing a red leather motorcycle jacket.
Jean-Pierre Darroussin, his face made for Kaurismaki’s camera, joins the directors’ regulars (Andrew Wilms as Marcel and Kati Outinen as his wife Arletty) as Inspector Monet. Assigned to find the boy, Monet’s menacing (he wears a black trench coat and fedora) hides his empathy with Marcel and his community until the genuinely suspenseful chase sequence.
“Le Havre” will open on Friday, October 21 in New York (Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and IFC Center) and Los Angeles, with a national rollout to follow.