The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
Le Havre is wonderful political parable that is as witty and warm as it is utterly charming.
Which is surprising, given it's come from Aki Kaurismaki, director of the Loser Trilogy - Drifting Clouds, The Man Without A Past and Lights In The Dusk.
Situated in Helsinki, they largely featured desperate people battling to survive capitalism exacerbated by the extreme effects of seasonal affective disorder.
The secret to their success was their eccentric characterisations and cinematographer Timo Salminen's use of the northern natural light.
Well, Aki and Timo have decamped south to France to produce a film about the plight of illegal immigrants heading for dear old Blighty.
Many of them arrive in containers and then are housed in camps like the Jungle in Calais.
It opens with the sight of an old man and young Vietnamese boy competing for customers as shoeshiners and witnessing a suspicious accident.
The central character is Marcel (Andre Wilms) as a former Parisian writer who is reduced in circumstances to support his ailing wife Arietty (Kati Outinen).
A big-hearted man, admired in his community, his life is further complicated when he tries to help Idressa (Blondin Miguel) an illegal immigrant looking for his mum.
On their case is the local detective Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) who looks like he's escaped from a film-noir film of the 1940s.
In fact, everything contrives to appear to ape French films like those produced by Marcel Carne, Jacques Tati, Rene Clair and Luc Bresson.
Shops and cafes remind us of the architecture of the '50s so every instance of modernity looks like a rude intrusion.
It's to denote the changes - that no matter the demands of wage-slave labour - the French can call on a long tradition of resistance.
Significantly the informer is seen as even more contemptible than the law.
Solidarity is signified by a concert which features the real-life ageing rock star Little Bob playing a grotesque gig.
Simply, it's all about community compassion, a film to remind us of our humanity.