One of the best films we've seen so far this year -- that is generating the least amount buzz (yet) -- is "Le Havre" the latest from Finnish master of deadpan comedy, Aki Kaurismäki.
Premiering at Cannes this spring to near unanimous praise -- we called it "a political crowdpleaser, a film that’s broadly appealing with an undercurrent of seriousness" -- the film centers on a retired Parisian bohemian, Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms), who takes in a young illegal immigrant (Blondin Miguel) who has managed to evade the authorities after they seize the cargo container he was transported in from Africa. But the film puts the political issue aside, and by focusing on the lovely, humanist, humorous and ultimately quite moving story at its core, Kaurismäki eventually and quietly drives his viewpoints home. Needless to say, this is one movie we adored and you can bet it will rank very highly (on this writer's list anyway) for the top movies of the year.
Janus Films picked up "Le Havre" earlier this year and will now get it moving in limited release starting on October 21st in New York and Los Angeles according to our friends over at Shadow & Act. Moreover, Kaurismäki has lifted his self-imposed ban on the Academy after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and has allowed his film to be selected as Finland's official Oscar entry this year. In 2005, "The Man Without A Past" was one one of the final five nominees for Best Foreign Film, but the director refused to attend the ceremonies. Then in 2006, the director refused to endorse Finland's decision to enter "Lights in the Dusk" into the Oscar race and the country was left without a movie to put into consideration that year. But all that is water under the bridge as the director is fully behind "Le Havre" now as it is the official selection for Finland for 2011 and we'd bet an early favorite for the final five.
If it comes to an arthouse near you, we urge you to see it. But if not, given Janus Films' close connection to The Criterion Collection, we're guessing you'll see it on the boutique label soon enough.