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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 July 24, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
Writer: Aki Kaurismäki
Starring: André Wilms, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Kati Outinen, Blondin Miguel, Elina Salo, Evelyne Didi
» See full cast & crew
Le Havre Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 24, 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 Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; press conference footage and an interview filmed at the Cannes Film Festival; exclusive video interview with actor Andre Wilms; long video interview with actress Kati Outinen; and more. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by Michael Sicinski and an interview with director Aki Kaurismaki conducted by film historian Peter von Bagh. In French, with optional English subtitles. Region-A "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 arrive son Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Approved by director Aki Kaurismaki, this new high-definition digital transfer was created on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35mm interpositive. Minor scratches and dust were removed using Image Systems' Nucoda and Autodesk's Flame.
Colorist: Mathilde Delacroix/Eclair Laboratoires, Paris.
Blu-ray mastering: Radius60, Los Angeles."
The film has a beautiful organic look. Almost without exception close-ups boast outstanding depth, with a select few looking virtually flawless (see screencapture #15). The larger panoramic shots convey excellent clarity and contrast balance (see screencapture #14). Color reproduction is also very effective, especially during the nighttime footage (shadows and colors have a unique relationship and typically play an important role in the films of director Kaurismaki). There are absolutely no traces of edge-enhancement or problematic degraining corrections. Banding or aliasing patterns do not plague the high-definition transfer either. There is only one sequence where I noticed a bit of light flicker in the upper right corner of the frame, but this is hardly something that should bother you. Finally, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. To sum it all up, Criterion's presentation of Le Havre is very impressive, on par with some of the best releases we have seen from the studio this year. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Le Havre Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The film features a fully digital 5.1 surround soundtrack. The audio for this release was mastered at 24-bit from the original audio master files using Pro Tools HD."
The sound is crisp and very rich. During the concert the music is well rounded and boasting excellent depth. Elsewhere, there are unique audio enhancements that also make an impression. The overall dynamic amplitude is as good as it could be for a film directed by Aki Kaurismaki (do not expect sudden spikes in dynamic movement). Lastly, there are no problematic pops, distortions, or audio dropouts to report in this review. The English translation is excellent.
Le Havre Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Le Havre Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki's latest film, Le Havre, is a beautiful modern fairy tale with a deeply humanistic message which pays tribute to classic French cinema. Le Havre is the beginning of a trilogy, whose second and third installments are apparently to be filmed in Spain and Germany. Criterion's presentation of the film is excellent. The Blu-ray release also contains an exclusive new interview with actor Andre Wilms. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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