I’d thought I’d heard of Le Havre when it was announced as having made the most recent additions to the List, but I was mistaken; I might’ve heard the name of the film in passing, or maybe I just heard the name of the town the film is named after. Either way, I had a distinct sense of deja vu upon coming across the name Le Havre, and after seeing the film, I can’t place it. The film, directed by Aki Kaurismaki, is described as a comedy-drama, only for me, there was very little comedy, and very little drama. So, where does that put the film? Seriously, somebody please tell me, because I have no idea.
Right from the opening scene, where the main character, a shoeshiner named Marcel, shrugs off witnessing an assassination by saying, “At least the man paid me first”, I knew I was in for a very unorthodox film. Indeed, I don’t know if I can even rightfully call this a film; everything about it seems to be a parody of your average film. Not a straight parody, but nothing in the film is ever taken at fact value, or plainly; there is always a level of aloofness or disconnect with regular filmic conventions, so that you can never take the film seriously. It’s very odd, and certainly something I hadn’t experienced, at least in recent memory. The film decides to be very stereotypically French, from the music to the dialect to, hell, even the story, and this just adds to the aloofness mentioned earlier. It might have been the director’s (who is Finnish) attempt to immerse the viewer in French culture, from an outsiders point of view, but I think it came across a little too strong. There are also some very unusual choices in shots and camera angles, that made me go “Huh; why is that there?” It bothered me a little having to ask that question repeatedly throughout the film, but I know I can be somewhat particular about things of that nature, and that most people who will watch this film won’t be bothered by it as much as I.
The film was decent enough, but I just couldn’t get into it. The aloofness was a big factor, but it was mostly because I didn’t care about the story; it wasn’t a story that really didn’t need to be told. Along that same line, I just couldn’t find myself feeling anything for any of the characters involved; the main character, Marcel, is a down-on-his-luck shoeshiner, and his wife falls ill and spend most of the film in the hospital. Despite all that, I just didn’t care, and I checked very carefully to make sure it wasn’t just because my heart was particularly sullen while I watched the film, because it wasn’t. Perhaps I just didn’t spend enough time with them to really care about them; the film is only an hour and a half long, and much of the middle portion is a bit saggy with trying to find things to do (and has a little too much unnecessary focus on the dog, as likable as it was). Still, I could’ve done a whole lot worse, but I wasn’t reeling with joy for having seen Le Havre. Who knows, give it a chance, and maybe you’ll come out where I didn’t. It certainly won’t hurt you to do so.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10