In the northern French port city of the title, an elderly shoe shiner calls on his circle of working-poor friends to help him protect a young African refugee from getting deported. Aki Kaurismaki, making his first French feature since La Vie de Boheme (1992), presents his story as a modern-day fairy tale: the people in the community all know each other and every character proves reliably compassionate in a crisis. The film is especially comforting if you love old movies, as Kaurismaki does: his deadpan humor and deliberately flattened images evoke silent comedy, as usual, and his rosy depiction of proletarian camaraderie recalls the 30s and 40s work of Marcel Carné (particularly Le Jour se Leve). Many of the music selections and character names allude to Carné too. In French with subtitles.
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