Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ralliraita

Ralliraita 1 [the title on screen] / [Rallyrullen] / [The Rally Reel]. FI 2009. PC: Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy. P: Satu Sadinkangas, Jukka Karttunen. D: Markku Pölönen. SC: Arttu Käyhkö, Heikki Silvennoinen, Markku Pölönen. Cinematography: Kari Sohlberg, Juha Korhonen, Matti Poutanen. Digital intermediate: Generator Post. AD: Pete Neuvonen. COST: Anna Sinkkonen. Make-up: Riikka Virtanen. M: Vesa Mäkinen. Songs by Kotiteollisuus. Title song: "Tie laulaa" (comp. Vesa Mäkinen, lyrics Markku Pölönen) perf. Sakari Kuosmanen. S: Kyösti Väntänen. ED: Jari Innanen, Markku Pölönen. The Rally Chronicle: Marko Mäkinen. CAST: Olavi Uusivirta (Lauri ”Luumu” Pesonen), Heikki Silvennoinen (Seppo ”Sladi” Pesonen), Peter Franzén (Suko), Laura Birn (Aija), Tom Petäjä (Puupponen), Kai Hyttinen (Pekkarinen), Sakari Kuosmanen (Raimo ”Runki” Petterson), Eeva Litmanen (Susa), Satu Silvo (Sirkku Kyllönen), Mika Nuojua (Stumppi), Heikki Nousiainen (Ukko-Torppo), Antti Virmavirta (Torppo-Juniori), Hans Stigzelius (Leivo), Janne Reinikainen (main  commentator Levanto), Aake Kalliala (second commentator Takalo). 86 min. Distributor: Walt Disney Motion Pictures, Finland. Viewed at Cinema Orion (Jussit), Helsinki, 28 Dec 2009.

Markku Pölönen is one of my favourite Finnish directors, especially with his films Onnen maa [Land of Bliss] and Koirankynnen leikkaaja [Dog Nail Clipper]. He has an excellent sense of humour.

With Ralliraita he is about to launch a new Finnish low budget comedy series. Predecessors include Risto Orko (the Ryhmy and Romppainen military farce series), the grand master T.J. Särkkä (the rillumarei films, the Pekka and Pätkä series), and the miraculously productive Aarne Tarkas. The most obvious goldfinger model is the comedian Spede Pasanen, the most successful film producer in Finland since the 1960s till his death. Two successful off-Helsinki producers have been Visa Mäkinen in Pori and Timo Koivusalo (the Pekko series) in Nakkila next to Pori, and the most successful recent comedy concept has been created by the Kummeli team from Tampere. Markku Pölönen is located at Kontiolahti in North Karelia, in Eastern Finland.

Those comedies are among the most popular films in the history of Finnish cinema. They are the films that foreigners never get to see. Comedy does not travel, with the big exception of American comedy. Critics have always conducted a demolition derby with Finnish comedy, and Markku Pölönen, a distinguished director, certainly knew what to expect. Having seen Ralliraita I read some 20 of the reviews, and they were unanimous in their crushing sentence.

To be redeemed:
1. The subject is rich. Finns have a strong car culture, and numerous Finnish international champion racing drivers have developed from this background. Among the main secrets are the long dirt roads, perfect for practise. There has never been a film about this background really. Risto Jarva's Bensaa suonissa [Gasoline In My Veins] was more focused on the actual racing scene. The dirt road practise scenes in Ralliraita may have documentary value.
2. The actors are good. The young lead actor, the popular singer-songwriter Olavi Uusivirta, is charismatic in the same way as young Clint Eastwood, but not as cold. He was good as Cisse Häkkinen in Ganes, and he carries this film well. Heikki Silvennoinen, the singer-comedian-actor famous from the Kummeli team, is convincing as the driving school instructor with endless patience. The film is well cast.

The film is riddled with clichés. Most disappointingly, the wonderful women Laura Birn, Eeva Litvanen, and Satu Silvo have not been given anything interesting to do. I don't miss the harridans from the Särkkä and Spede films, though.

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