Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

02 October 2012

Le Havre

I just don't understand Aki Kaurismäki. I know other people like his work. In fact, it might be fair to say that pretty much everybody loves Kaurismäki. But I just don't get it.

Granted, I haven't seen a lot of his work – so this judgment is perhaps unfair – but I didn't understand The Man without a Past and I didn't understand Le Havre.

The film is unprepossessing enough: a simple tale about an older Norman who helps a small boy who is a refugee from somewhere in Francophone Africa trying to make his way to London to be with his mother.

But Kaurismäki's filmmaking has this strange, stilted quality that I cannot seem to move past. The movie is a fairy tale, yes, but the filmmaker's style does not eschew realism altogether, and attempts (perhaps) to address the important issue of immigration and legal restrictions on it. And so what I get seems confused.

In truth, the issue is comedy, and that's why I say that I don't get Kaurismäki. Le Havre is a comedy, but it is a comedy where the jokes don't often land with me and so I simply feel that I have no access to his work.

So this is my Kaurismäki pity-party. I wish that I thought his films were funny, but I just don't.