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Post-Fest Preview

By Arts & Culture, Uncategorized

The Chicago International Film Festival is over, but you will still have a chance to see some of the features at local theaters.

Le Havre
2011, Aki Kaurismäki, 103 min.

“I’m the albino brother,” argues Marcel. “Do you know what happens to people who discriminate on the basis of color?” The police officer is frozen in confusion as Marcel points to the civil law book on the table. The officer has no choice but to take Marcel to Mahmet Saleh, an illegal immigrant in custody.

Marcel, a shoe shiner from Le Havre, France, embarks on a trip to a refugee detention center in Calais with the little money he had earned and collected in a tin box and the lone suit that hangs in his closet. He came to find Saleh, the grandfather of a shy African teenage boy that Marcel has been hiding at his home.

Le Havre, a heartwarming and quirky comedy from director Aki Kaurismäki, follows an unlikely likable man whose world is transformed by an illegal immigrant boy on the run from the police.

Most people could help those in need, but Marcel does it with almost nothing but the support of a small community in the middle of nowhere and the unbreakable spirit of a man-child.

Le Havre personalizes the worldwide immigration issue and serves as a reminder of our universal roots, while entertaining us with strange but charming characters.

Other notable films in the Kaurismäki ouevre include “Leningrad Cowboys Go Amerika” (just out on DVD) and “Matchstick Factory Girl.”

—Dijana Kadic

Catch Le Havre at the Music Box Theater Nov. 4—10.

The Last Rites of Joe May
2011, Joe Maggio, 103 min.

In “The Last Rites of Joe May,” repetitive scenes of pigeons flying freely against the backdrop of the Chicago skyline frame the story of a former electronics hustler who, after seven weeks in the hospital for pneumonia, finds himself shunned by his former friends and partners in crime.

“Last Rites,” directed by Joe Maggio, stars veteran Chicago actor Dennis Farina as the aging and disillusioned Joe May. The story begins when May is released from the hospital. He returns to his apartment to find his landlord, who, thinking May had died, sold all of May’s property and rented out the apartment to single mother Jenny Rap (Jamie Ann Allman) and her young daughter. After Rap finds May homeless and trying to sleep at CTA bus stops, she invites him to stay with her temporarily. Rap, along with her daughter, become May’s only allies throughout the film as he struggles to reconnect with his friends. “One day you’re on top of the world, the next day you’re floating in the crapper,” he warns the young child in a tough Midwestern accent. We understand that Joe May was never particularly nice; his son despises him for being an absent father and a terrible husband to his mother. May prefers to remain distant even in response to Jenny Rap’s wrenching story of an abusive relationship with a — wait for it — Chicago cop. Set in the neighborhood of West Town, the cinematography emphasizes the crisp blues and greys of bitter winter that contribute to May’s worsening health conditions and failing relationships.

Farina delivers a solid portrayal of Joe May. Throughout the film you can’t help but feel sorry for him when everybody turns against him. At its most heartbreaking, May scours the alleys of Chicago restaurants desperate to find someone who is willing to buy a generous amount of prime New Zealand lamb (his connections no longer give him electronics to hustle). Ultimately he decides to go for one last redeeming action to set his actions straight, allowing the story to take a more comfortable shape in the second half, but it never makes up for the poorly developed and trite plot line that leaves all characters, other than Joe May, flat and one-dimensional.

—Diana Buendia

Catch The Last Rites of Joe May at the Gene Siskel Film Center Nov. 25—Dec. 1.

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