Le Havre

Le Havre ★★★★½

Kaurismäki makes movies about faces. I’m half-convinced he finds actors with the right eyes and mouths and wrinkles and builds stories around them. The climax of this movie is wordless: two people looking at each other, and emotions cascading across their faces until one of them makes a decision.

The simplicity of his shots masks the intricacy of his story. At the surface, this is a simple one about a refugee running from the law and the old man who saves him. There’s a lot of drollery around the corners. Look closer, though, and consider the way Little Bob’s missing wife echoes Marcel’s sick wife. There’s a whole series of explicit and implicit stories about lost partners here, which creates a purposeful texture.

There’s not a lot of chance in Kaurismäki‘s films. In the interview on the Curzon Blu-Ray, Jean-Pierre Darroussin says, “There is a strange and wonderful pleasure in creating a character with Aki Kaurismäki and stepping into a universe so precise that it requires… a gesture. You really have to shoot the arrow at the target.”

This sounds correct to me. It’s a fable of a movie, taking place in a timeless Le Havre, and it’s also truly emotional. I was moved to tears at a couple of points during this, mostly because of how people looked at each other. It’s a neat trick, melding fable and social realism.

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