JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Alcan Highway (Director/Writer: Aleksi Salmenperä) - May 18, 2013
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Alcan Highway

3 3
90 min.

Reviewed at the 2013 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival
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Perhaps one of the strangest road movies ever made, Aleksi Salmenperä’s fanciful chronicle of designer-by-day, guitarist afterhours Finnish compatriot Heikki “Hese” Tolonen;’s trek from Wasilla, Alaska to Canada’s Vancouver Island has more to say about guys being stereotypical guys than anything else.

Rebellions against perfectly rational fathers don’t get much better than this.

Building a truck/home from scratch at Durgeloh’s Truck Salvage (along with Canucks Jon Ayres’ and Rhys Palmer’s moral and mechanical expertise respectively) takes far too long (both in reality and cinematically) because Hese doesn’t really know what he wants, prompting Rhys to declaim, “I can help you out but I can’t read your mind.”

Nonetheless, the $700 “retired” truck is finally topped by an 8x16 Airstream (silver “Land Yacht” trailer) and—along with a potted willow to begin the wheeled estate’s garden once the 4,000 km trek has been completed—the three semi-amigos hit the road, boasting initial speeds of 60 kph.

Of course, things break down (including egos and solidarity as well as the repurposed conveyance) and there’s a feeling that Salmenperä has gone a bit too far with “re-enactments” rather than bearing witness to events (perhaps the most notable exception being the explosion in the cab), but once Hese’s buds take a planned leave from their erratic master, the film settles down into its more serious side (replete with a sudden flirtation in Prince George with a young woman, seemingly instantly smitten with the scruffily bearded adventurer who finally beams from head to toe while giving the buxom cashier a personal tour of the cabin-on-wheels’ extra-messy living quarters).

Silently stoic and a welcome relief for the eye, G-DOG’s constant faithfulness and telling, mute looks speak volumes. Ville Tanttu’s original score is the best part of the show—notably the ever-engaging banjo that delights the ear even if the eye is sometimes puzzled, reflecting on the age-old dilemma: interesting thought, but was there really a movie here?

Finally, tellingly, and at one with the trials and tribulations of independent filmmakers everywhere, the production merely stops rather than concludes; there’s a distinct feeling that the cash ran out before journey’s end. JWR

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Director/Writer - Aleksi Salmenperä
Cinematography - Henri Blomberg
Editor - Samu Heikkilä
Original Music - Ville Tanttu
Further information, future screening/performance/exhibition dates,
purchase information, production sponsors:
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
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