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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Le Havre [Blu-ray]


(Aki Kaurismaki, 2011)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Sputnik Oy

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #619



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:33:55.671

Disc Size: 47,763,818,425 bytes

Feature Size: 27,504,168,960 bytes

Video Bitrate: 33.99 Mbps

Chapters: 27

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 29th, 2012



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio French 3096 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3096 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English (SDH), none



• New interview with actor André Wilms (13:08)
Footage from the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, including a press conference and a French television interview with cast and crew (45:12)
Finnish television interview with actress Kati Outinen from 2011 (48:09)
Concert footage of Little Bob, the musician featured in the film (8:15)
Trailer (2:19)
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Sicinski and a 2011 conversation between Kaurismäki and film historian Peter von Bagh





Description: In this warmhearted comic yarn from Aki Kaurismäki, fate throws the young African refugee Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) into the path of Marcel Marx (André Wilms), a kindly old bohemian who shines shoes for a living in the French harbor city Le Havre. With inborn optimism and the support of his tight-knit community, Marcel stands up to the officials doggedly pursuing the boy for deportation. A political fairy tale that exists somewhere between the reality of contemporary France and the classic French cinema of the past, Le Havre is a charming, deadpan delight and one of the Finnish director’s finest films.


Aki Kaurismaki's La Havre stars Andre Wilms as Marcel, a free-spirited, good-natured writer who is currently making a living as a shoeshiner. He meets Idrissa (Blondin Miguel, an African refugee and helps the young man hide from officials who want him deported., Meanwhile, Marcel's loving wife suffers from a serious illness.



The Film:

An international festival favorite since at least 1990's "The Match Factory Girl," the Finnish writer-director (who won the FIPRESCI international critics award at the Cannes Film Festival this year) has never gotten much traction with American audiences. But "Le Havre" — which is Finland's foreign-language Oscar nominee though it's in French, shot in that celebrated port city — might turn that around.

A droll ode to the downtrodden and dispossessed, "Le Havre" joins Kaurismäki's unmistakable stylistic flourishes with two things that are relatively new to his repertory: an overt social conscience and a sweet-natured fairy tale sensibility.

Excerpt from Kenneth Turan at the LA Times located HERE

You could easily imagine this story — about a young African refugee who comes under the protection of a French shoeshine man and his neighbors — as a grimly realistic exercise in guilt-inducing consciousness-raising. Or else as a self-congratulatory melodrama of awakened conscience. But Aki Kaurismaki, the prolific Finnish filmmaker who has become a major inheritor of the comic-humanist tradition of Charlie Chaplin, Jean Renoir and Jacques Tati, does not rub our faces in hardship. Figuring that we already know something about how harsh life can be, he reminds us of its modest charms and fleeting beauties, and of how easy it is, in the face of cruelty, to behave decently.

Excerpt from A.O. Scott at the NY Times located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Le Havre looks excellent on Blu-ray from Criterion.  The image has some teal-leaning but most colors, like reds, appear strong and tight.  This is dual-layered with a high bitrate and we can guess that it is a solid representation of the film. We will probably compare to the upcoming AE Blu-ray soon. It is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and contrast and detail are impressive. They are frequent examples of depth. This Blu-ray has no discernable flaws and supplies a wonderful 1080P presentation.















Audio :

Not much in the way of aggression and the DTS-HD Master 5.1 track at 3096 kbps - in original French - handles the film's subtleties and dialogue with casual ease. Kaurismaki films may be more notable for their deadpan silences than dynamic effects. There isn't a lot of separation. Little Bob sounds authentically 'lounge rock' and there are hints of depth. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.


Extras :

Criterion offer quite a lot of supplements. There is a new (April 2012) 13-minute interview with actor André Wilms who discusses the film, and working with Kaurismaki who also directed him in La vie de bohème. There is 45-minutes of footage from the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, including a press conference and a French television interview with cast and crew. Included is a 48-minute Finnish television interview with actress Kati Outinen from 2011. For those who couldn't get enough we have 8-minutes of concert footage of Little Bob, the musician featured in the film - as well as a trailer. The package contains a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Sicinski and a 2011 conversation between Kaurismäki and film historian Peter von Bagh.



Kaurismaki films are so... comforting. Le Havre is no exception. Warm, fun... human. This is close to a masterpiece and the Criterion Blu-ray package offers a great a/v presentation with keen extras. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

July 20th, 2012


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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