Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Cannes Day 7: Le Havre

In my screening of Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre, Cannes audiences were peeing themselves laughing.
Yet according to a friend, his screening was relatively silent, with only a peppering of giggles here and there.  

Go figure. Written, directed, and produced by Kaurismäki, Le Havre is a charming story of Marcel Marx, a semi-bumbling older gentleman who is a bit of a cheeky coot. When a runaway refugee finds him (Idrissa, played by Blondin Miguel), Marx begins to take care of him, providing Idrissa food. He also shelters him from Monet, a stubborn detective ordered to round up the refugees.
In a Competition that has included many shockingly violent (and even just simply bad) movies, it is certainly refreshing to have a movie like Le Havre come in and relax you. There’s really no way to “hate” a movie like Le Havre; you could find it rather slow, as I did, but the general atmosphere (a delicate 1960s throwback) and humour is all very benign. The movie even has a happy ending, which is rare in a Cannes film. That being said, it’s still mainly all about the humour, which isn’t very mainstream at all.

Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) is the source of the majority of the laughs in Le Havre.  He has a deadpan stare, a grand ol’ moustache, and a no-nonsense attitude. But again, if you don’t dig deadpan, it will likely leave you cold. But even still, I totally enjoy that style of humour, so it’s bizarre to me that I wasn’t affected by Le Havre. There is a moment with Monet that involves a pineapple that is pretty funny, but it was too little, too late for me to properly enjoy the film as a whole. Touched, maybe, but little else. I’m stumped, frankly.
I’m left with the impression that Le Havre is not for everyone. No movie is, really – but the fact is, the laffs in Le Havre are an acquired taste – one I thought I had. It always sucks when you’re sitting in a theatre filled with thousands of people (the Lumiere holds a toppling 2,300) and you feel like the loner no-joy who can’t seem to muster even a half-hearted smirk, but c’est la vie (or maybe, c’est Le Havre).

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