Kaurismäki's Le Havre shoeblack eyes a new client - Oscar
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
15/09/2011 - "I cannot help it - I start to be tender in my old age. The more sceptical and cynical I get, the softer my films are. I am even starting to like my characters," said 54-year-old Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki, when he launched his new feature Le Havre [trailer, film focus] in competition at Cannes.
On September 14, a jury from the Finnish Film Chamber chose his film to represent Finland in the race for the 2012 Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Feature - both his and his country's second Oscar nomination after The Man Without a Past [trailer] in 2002 (when Kaurismäki cancelled his participation in protest against the US after the start of the war with Iraq).
This time he has accepted the candidacy of Le Havre, which received the international critics' FIPRESCI prize in Cannes, and went on to win the award for Best International Feature at Germany's FilmFest München, as well as the Audience Award at St Petersburg's Kinoforum in Russia. Touring the festivals, it unspooled to an 8,000 audience on Locarno's Piazza Grande.
Shot with French dialogue, the film tells the story of a former author and well-known bohemian, Marcel Marx (André Wilms) who has left Paris for a voluntary exile in the port city of Le Havre. Now a shoe-shiner, he lives within the triangle of his bar, his work and his wife, Arletty (Kati Outinen). Also in the cast are Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Blondin Miguel (and Laïka, his dog).
While Arletty is taken to hospital, seriously ill, Marx meets an illegal immigrant boy, Idrissa, who is lost in Le Havre, on the run from the police and trying to be reunited with his mother in London.
Released domestically on September 9 by Future Film Oy Ab, Kaurismäki's first feature after the Helsinki/Loser trilogy - which he wrote, directed and produced for his own outfit, Sputnik - went to No 3 on the weekend charts, with 9,934 admissions. Germany's The Match Factory handles international sales. The five 2012 Oscar nominations will be announced on January 24 2012.