Saturday, June 18, 2011

Le Havre

FI/FR/DE © 2011 Sputnik / Pyramide Productions / Pandora Film / ARTE France Cinéma. Dépôt légal: 2010. P+D+SC: Aki Kaurismäki. Excerpt from "Kinder auf der Landstrasse" in Betrachtung (1913) by Franz Kafka. DP: Timo Salminen - 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219) - camera: Arriflex II BL - editing table: Steenbeck 35 mm - laboratoire: Éclair - 1,85:1. PD: Wouter Zoon. Cost: Frédéric Cambier. Makeup: Valerie Théry-Hamel. S: Tero Malmberg. ED: Timo Linnasalo. Loc: Le Havre (Région Haute-Normandie). Cast: André Wilms (Marcel Marx), Kati Outinen (Arletty Marx), Jean-Pierre Darroussin (Monet), Blondin Miquel (Idrissa), Elina Salo (Claire), Evelyne Didi (Yvette), Quoc Dung Nguyen (Chang), François Monnié (grocer), Roberto Piazza (Little Bob), Pierre Étaix (Doctor Becker), Jean-Pierre Léaud (denouncer), Ilkka Koivula (the Italian). 103 min. Version originale française. Visa d'exploitation n:o 124875. A 35 mm Sputnik print with Finnish subtitles by Irmeli Debarle, and e-subtitles in English by Mikko Lyytikäinen. Viewed at the tent in Sodankylä (Midnight Sun Film Festival), 18 June 2011.

Music excerpts: Einojuhani Rautavaara: Apotheosis. - "Matelot" perf. The Renegades, "Musettina" perf. Erkki Friman, "Bolero" perf. Antero Jakoila, "Pour un seul amour" perf. Damia, "Chansons gitanes" perf. Damia, "Jambaar" perf. Hasse Walli & Asamaan, "La Nostalgique" perf. Alain Chapelain, "Chanson du pavé" perf. Alain Chapelain, "Statesboro Blues" perf. Blind Willie McTell, "Sheila 'N Willy" perf. Little Bob, "Maailmanpyörä" perf. Aaro Kurkela, "Cuesta abajo" perf. Carlos Gardel, "Libero" perf. Little Bob. - J.S. Bach: Petit prélude et fugue en mi mineur BVW 555.

In the presence of Aki Kaurismäki hosted by Peter von Bagh.

A turning-point in Aki Kaurismäki's odyssey. Le Havre differs from his other films in the same way as The Man Who Knew Too Much (both versions) differ from Alfred Hitchcock's other films. There is a volte-face in the psychological fundament of the story. The suspense is no longer about what will happen to the protagonist but about how he will succeed in helping others.

Marcel's wife Arletty lands into a hospital with a terminal case of cancer. Marcel tries to help the ten-year-old African exile boy Idrissa who is alone in Le Havre and wanted by the police.

Aki is in full form with his familiar strengths. The laconic wit of the visual storytelling. The deadpan performances with a sense of nuance. The firm control of the framing and the mise-en-scène. The bold sense of colour. There is no newly written music score but memorable selections of pre-existing tracks. The movie is spiced with references to film history. There is a solid flow in the movie with no empty moments.

The film is in French so I'm not able to judge if the dialogue has the same anti-realistic, droll, stilted, and parodical quality as Aki's Finnish films.

Aki has always been a storyteller with a fairy-tale aspect, and in Le Havre this aspect has grown more prominent. This is not a dark fairy-tale like The Match Factory Girl, that somber antithesis of H.C. Andersen, Anni Swan and the Angélique stories. Le Havre brings to mind The Kid by Charles Chaplin, the films of René Clair, Frank Capra, and Vittorio de Sica, and the 1950s Giulietta films of Federico Fellini (La strada, Le notti di Cabiria). There is a similar sense of caricature, stylization, and archetype.

Aki has not given up his dark fatalism, but the wish-fulfillment ending is a transcendent way of expressing it. We are living like there's no tomorrow but we'll never give up fighting for a tomorrow.

The protagonist Marcel is a new kind of guy in Aki's oeuvre. He is neither naive nor cynical. Outwardly he is a loser but inwardly a winner, salt of the earth. His sense of humour is of a more profound quality than anything in Aki's films so far.

Le Havre is a poet's vision about being a refugee, an outcast, a stranger, an outlaw in our world today. We have built a world in which too many of us are unwanted guests. (Including the majority of the original species... )

There was something wrong in the projection: either the print had low contrast or the projector lamp was too bright. People who had seen Le Havre before confirmed that the cinematography looks great in proper projection circumstances.

I look forward to Aki's next film more than ever.

P.S. 26 July 2011. There is a quick Melville hommage in the opening vignette about the Italian mafioso who meets the killers. - The container is on its way from Libreville (Gabon) to London. - The most memorable scene: the silent looks of the refugees in the container. - The final image of the cherry blossoms is an hommage is to Ozu.

P.S. 7 September 2011 (the opening reception at Maxim and Andorra). At Maxim, a 2K DCP was screened (I sampled just the beginning). Having seen Le Havre five times before I still haven't seen a normal 35 mm screening.

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