Blu-ray Review: Sweet, Gentle Tale of ‘Le Havre’ Joins Criterion

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CHICAGO – It takes a French village in the sweet, optimistic, good-natured “Le Havre,” a film about a kind man who does something to help another and how the community doesn’t just rally around him but the world produces a miracle for him in the end. It is such a kind-hearted film that suggests without cynicism that doing good not only will bring more good but will essentially be supported by the world around you. Incredibly well-made and memorable, “Le Havre” is a stellar modern addition to The Criterion Collection. Blu-ray rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

Aki Kaurismaki takes his unique eye to the title city in the North of France for this tale of an immigrant boy who is first protected by a kind gentleman and then essentially guarded by the entire community. Sweet, surprising, smart, and very subtle, “Le Havre” is a gentle film that builds its story through character, setting, and humanity — those things so often missing from film. The Criterion transfer is a beauty (Kaurismaki’s blue-gray color pallette is perfectly rendered) even if the special features are a little slight. Some of The Criterion Collection’s inclusions of current films (“Le Havre” was released stateside just last year) have been a bit questionable. Not this one.

Le Havre was released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 31, 2012
Le Havre was released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 31, 2012
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

In this warmhearted comic yarn from Aki Kaurismäki (The Match Factory Girl), fate throws the young African refugee Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) into the path of Marcel Marx (La vie de bohème’s André Wilms), a kindly bohemian who shines shoes for a living, in the French harbor city Le Havre. With inborn optimism and the support of most of his tight-knit community, Marcel stands up to the officials doggedly pursuing the boy for deportation. A political fairy tale that exists somewhere between the reality of contemporary France and the classic French cinema of the past, especially the poetic realist works of Jean Duvivier and Marcel Carné, Le Havre is a charming, deadpan delight and one of the Finnish director’s finest films.

StarClick here to buy “Le Havre”

Special Features:
o New high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Aki Kaurismäki, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
o New interview with actor André Wilms
o Footage from the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, including a press conference and a French television interview with cast and crew
o Finnish television interview with actress Kati Outinen from 2011
o Concert footage of Little Bob, the musician featured in the film
o Trailer
o PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Sicinski and a 2011 conversation between Kaurismäki and film historian Peter von Bagh

“Le Havre” stars Andre Wilms, Kati Outinen, and Blondin Miguel. It was written and directed by Aki Kaurismaki. It was released by The Criterion Collection on July 31, 2012 on Blu-ray and DVD. content director Brian Tallerico

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