Of all the movies I’ve seen this year, Le Havre is without a doubt the biggest waste of time.
Marcel is a down on his luck shoe shiner in France, subsisting basically on credit from the breadmaker downstairs. While his wife is on an extended stay in the hospital fighting terminal cancer, he takes a pursued young African refugee into his home and tries to find a way to smuggle him to London so he can join his mother. His quirky neighbors help him along the way as does an apparently conflicted police officer.
This is a movie completely and utterly devoid of style. The writing is completely wooden, the dialogue is stale and inorganic, and the actors deliver it like children reciting the pledge of allegiance, as a series of syllables that go in a certain order. The characterizations resemble people mostly because they’re played by human beings, but the similarity ends there. Their actions lack all motivation and often defy logic. Scenes seem to exist on the “why not?” principle, characters show up and exchange sentences made up of words that barely affect the plot without a hint of emotion and then they move on to the next quote-“scene”-end quote. And then there’s the look of the picture; It looks as if it was made in the ‘70s by a newspaperman experimenting with a moving picture camera. There’s no attempt to frame anything artfully; the camera is set on a tripod and pointed toward the topic sentence of the scene and then the editor refuses to cut to a new shot until we’re well past being bored. There were a total of six shots in the film where the camera actually moved. Five of them looked pretty good.
The films of director Aki Kaurismäki always make me kind of sad. They get accepted into the Cannes Film Festival and nominated for Academy Awards, but I feel like I must not be seeing the same movies. Critics run around saying that his actors’ deadpan deliveries are so hilarious, like he’s embodying the global perception of the Finnish and serving it up with wry pathos, but shouldn’t the movies themselves be good too? The fact that he gets so much attention in cinematic circles for such shoddy work reminds me of that socially hopeless kid in high school that the cool kids hang out with as a joke. He’s positive they actually think he’s cool while they try to keep their snide chuckles hidden behind their hands.