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Le Havre Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

Senior HTF Member
Apr 24, 2006
Charlotte, NC
Real Name
Matt Hough

Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre is a lovely, quiet film. It’s something of a fairy tale, and there’s some political comment tingeing at its edges, but it’s mostly a study of brotherly love and caring for one’s fellow man. It never presses to make its points and exists in its own delicate bubble of fantasy. It won’t dredge up the deepest emotions within the viewer, but it’ll make you smile and think and beam with pride over, for once, seeing man’s humanity to man.

Le Havre (Blu-ray)
Directed by Aki Kaurismaki

Studio: Criterion
Year: 2011
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 93 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French
Subtitles:  English

Region: A
MSRP: $ 39.95

Release Date: July 31, 2012

Review Date: July 24, 2012

The Film


With his wife (Kati Outinen) seriously ill in the hospital, shoeshine man Marcel Marx (André Wilms) happens on an escaped refugee (Blondin Miguel) from Africa who’s trying to reach his mother in London. Marcel takes on the herculean task of finding a way to get the boy to England, but for an impoverished coastal Frenchman, that’s a tall order. His job isn’t made easier by the investigations of Detective Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) who’s been tipped off by Marcel’s snoopy neighbor (Jean-Pierre Leaud) that the escaped illegal immigrant is hiding in the neighborhood. With local shopkeepers Yvette (Evelyne Didi) and Jean-Pierre (Francois Monnie) lending helping hands, Marcel may yet find a solution to reuniting the boy with his mother.

Aki Kaurismaki’s story focuses on the basic goodness within people, but the storytelling is so undemonstrative that one gets mesmerized by its quiet gentility. Rarely does anyone speak above a whisper (when Marcel sees a mob boss rubbed out in front of him in the early moments of the movie, he hardly gives it a moment’s notice only glad he got paid for the shoeshine before the man was killed), so the film becomes very much about the eyes and body language of the performers. Kaurismaki doesn’t move the camera that much making the static shots about the interactions between people, some friends and some strangers but always with a tender regard to feelings and responses (that’s especially evident in a sequence where Marcel goes looking for the boy’s grandfather and finds him in an interment camp for illegals, about as political as the film ever gets). The seriousness of Marcel’s wife Arletty’s illness always looms in the background of the story, his crusade to rescue the boy taking his mind off of fretting about her illness, but Kaurismaki pulls his punches a bit with his ending which rings slightly hollow even for a fairy tale.

André Wilms gives a wonderfully shaded performance as the simple man with simple tastes but a pure heart, and he interacts believably well with the newcomer Blondin Miguel who plays a quiet lad who’s generally respectful of authority. Jean-Pierre Darroussin makes a favorable impression as the stolid detective who might have a little more heart than he’s given credit for having, and Evelyne Didi, Elina Salo (as a tavern owner), and Francois Monnie complement the leading actors with ingratiating supporting performances. As the desperately ill wife, Kati Outinen looks and sounds the part, thoroughly convincing as one on her last legs.

Video Quality


The transfer has been framed at its theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is delivered in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s a crisp and beautifully realized transfer with excellent color control and flesh tones that appear completely natural. Contrast, except for one scene in a compartment, has been dialed in to perfection offering a very detailed and appealing picture. Black levels are only average, but they only figure importantly in a concert sequence late in the movie. The white subtitles are very easy to read. The film has been divided into 27 chapters.

Audio Quality


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is really overkill for this quiet, introspective movie. The rear channels are virtually silent apart from the Little Bob concert scene, and only then does the music drift a bit into the full soundstage. Otherwise, the film’s audio mix concentrates on the front channels with little ambience of this provincial French harbor town offered on the soundtrack. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been routed to the center channel.

Special Features


The film was presented and well received in Cannes in 2011. The panel discussion at Cannes featuring director Aki Kaurismaki and stars Andre Wilms, Kati Outinen, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Blondin Miguel, and Quoc-dung Nguyen (who plays a fellow shoeshine man in the picture) runs for 45 ¼ minutes in 1080i. A more satisfying Cannes interview with local newscasters features the director and Andre Wilms, Kati Outinen, and Jean-Pierre Darroussin runs 11 ¾ minutes.

An interview with actor Andre Wilms focuses on his films with the director and his particular way of directing. It runs 13 ¼ minutes and is in 1080p.

A 2011 episode of the Finnish television series Strawberry Festival features a lengthy interview with actress Kati Outinen in which her thirty year career on stage, radio, and movies is discussed. Featured are clips from many of her best known films, two of which won her international awards. This lasts 48 ¼ minutes and is in 1080i.

The concert footage of Little Bob featured in the movie is presented in its entirety (two songs: “Libero” and “Sheila ‘n’ Willy”). It runs 8 ¼ minutes in 1080i.

The theatrical trailer is in 1080p and runs 2 ¼ minutes.

The enclosed 24-page booklet features a cast and crew list, some artistic renderings of characters from the movie, critic Michael Sicinski’s look at the film and the works of Aki Kaurismaki, and a 2011 interview of the director by film historian Peter von Bagh.

The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

In Conclusion

4.5/5 (not an average)

A little slice of heaven in movie form, Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre is slight but very satisfying. The Blu-ray offers near-reference video and solid audio along with a raft of interesting bonus features which extend the meaning of the movie. Highly recommended!

Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC


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