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When an African boy arrives by cargo ship in the port city of Le Havre, an aging shoe shiner takes pity on the child and welcomes him into his home.
For more about Le Havre and the Le Havre Blu-ray release, see Le Havre Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 6, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: André Wilms, Blondin Miguel, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Kati Outinen, Elina Salo, Evelyne Didi
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
» See full cast & crew
Le Havre Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 6, 2012
Winner of FIPRESCI Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Cannes Film Festival, Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki's "Le Havre" (2011) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye. The supplemental features on the disc include original theatrical trailer; video interview with actors Andre Wilms and Jean-Pierre Darroussin; and performance footage of the singer Little Bob. In French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki's latest film, Le Havre, is essentially a modern fairy tale about a group of people whose lives are dramatically altered after a young African refugee enters their town. Like the overwhelming majority of Kaurismaki's previous films, Le Havre has fairly basic dialog and exceptionally beautiful imagery, simply stunning at times. The film was Finland's official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 84th Academy Awards.
Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms, Monsieur Hire, Strange Place for an Encounter) lives with his beautiful wife Arletty (Kaurismaki regular Kati Outinen, The Match Factory Girl, Drifting Clouds) in a small house somewhere on the outskirts of Le Havre. They barely make ends meet but never complain because they have each other. Every day Marcel goes out and shines as many shoes as he can, while Arletty stays at home and cooks. Their lives are simple, free of drama.
Marcel owns money to most of the neighborhood's merchants. Some of them have lost hope that he would ever be able to pay his bill, others do not seem to care anymore. They see that Marcel works hard but understand that times have changed - these days, working hard isn't enough to make a decent living.
Life in the neighborhood changes when the police discover a large container on the docks with men, women and children from Gabon. Before they are relocated to a temporary refugee camp, a young boy, Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), runs away. The media immediately begins speculating that there could be a connection between Idrissa and al Qaeda. Shortly after, while eating his lunch, Marcel meets Idrissa.
Police units are dispatched all over Le Havre to search for Idrissa. Detective Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Red Lights) also arrives in Marcel's neighborhood and begins asking questions. While Marcel tries to figure out a way to reunite Idrissa with his mother, who lives in London, Arletty falls seriously ill.
All of the key characteristics that make the majority of Kaurismaki's films so fascinating to behold are present in Le Havre - very dry humor, political satire, shadows and colors interacting in a very specific manner, notably subdued acting. There is also a whiff of that strange sense of loneliness that permeates all of Kaurismaki's films.
What makes Le Havre different is the fact that it has a well defined plot. There is a specific direction the film follows which gives it cohesiveness and mainstream flavor that are a bit surprising. Unlike The Man Without a Past, Lights in the Dusk, and especially Juha (a fantastic silent film), in Le Havre the sense of intimacy one feels while watching a Kaurismaki film is also missing. This is not to say that the film disappoints, though, rather that it could very well be signaling a basic change in philosophy for the Finnish director.
In an interview with film historian Peter von Bagh included in the booklet provided with Criterion's release of Le Havre, Kaurismaki credits Jean-Pierre Melville and Yasujiro Ozu as inspirational figures. I think that their influence is indeed very easy to recognize. The color scheme of Le Havre favors the blue/gray-ish nuances many of Melville's films do. There are also plenty of beautiful long static shots, much like the ones that are so prominent in the Japanese master's films.
Note: In 2011, Le Havre won FIPRESCI Prize (Aki Kaurismaki) and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.
Le Havre Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Aki Kaurismaki's Le Havre arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye.
The high-definition transfer is identical to the one Criterion used for their Blu-ray release of Le Havre in the U.S. Detail is excellent throughout the entire film, while depth is often spectacular. Clarity, sharpness, and color reproduction are also identical to those of the excellent Criterion release. (I have attempted to match a few screencaptures: compare screencapture #8 with screencapture #1 and screencature #12 with screencapture #16 from our review of the Criterion release). Additionally, there are no traces of problematic lab tinkering. Unsurprisingly, the film has a consistent and solid organic look. Compression is also very good. When projected, the film remains tight around the edges and heavy shimmer never creeps in. To sum it all up, Artificial Eye's Blu-ray release of Le Havre is an excellent alternative for viewers residing in Region-B territories that could not take advantage of Criterion's release. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Le Havre Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and French LPCM 2.0. For the record, Artificial Eye have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The sound is rich and well rounded. During the rock concert there is pleasing depth and the overall dynamic amplitude is as good as it could possible be. This being said, surround activity is very limited. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable and easy to follow. The English translation is also excellent.
Le Havre Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Le Havre Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki's Le Havre is one of the year's best films. It is a beautiful modern fairy tale with a deeply humanistic message which pays tribute to classic French cinema. Artificial Eye's Blu-ray release of Le Havre is an excellent alternative for folks residing in Region-B territories who could not take advantage of the excellent Criterion release - the film looks and sounds just as inmpressive. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Le Havre Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Le Havre Blu-ray - April 2, 2012
Independent British distributors Artificial Eye will release on Blu-ray acclaimed Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki's (Leningrad Cowboys, Lights in the Dusk) Le Havre (2011), starring André Wilms, Blondin Miguel and Jean-Pierre Darroussin. The preliminary release ...
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