The Leningrad Cowboys, a fictional Russian rock band, and their manager, travel to America seeking fame and fortune. As they cross the country, trying to get to a wedding in Mexico, they are followed by the village idiot, who wishes to join the band.Written by
"Have you ever heard of rock and roll?...Study 'dis book!"
This is without question one of the greatest rock and roll movies ever made. It's sort of THE BLUES BROTHERS meets STROSZEK with some MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON thrown in. Aki Kaurismaki has to be admired for making this gutsy and crazy film. There is not much of the European "art film" here, nor is there any real serious social commentary or aesthetic stunts underneath the comedy here either. There is also no condescension toward America or Americans. In fact there is a wide-eyed, dreamy fondness for America, especially its messy landscapes that hug the interstates and its simple, likable working-classes (but definitely not its prick cops). Here we get to meet the immensely likable dreams, music and attire of the Leningrad Cowboys, the misunderstood, maligned, salt of the earth band that comes to America to live out its rock and roll dream. Personally, I simply admire the actors for driving around the American South wearing those fantastic mullet pompadour quiffs and pointy shoes. That takes guts.
Kaurismaki has a special fondness for characters with big dreams but little or misunderstood talent, who can scrape up just enough cash just get by. Here, as in his another of his great comedies, LA VIE DE BOHEME, there are some characters who are unambiguously untalented (in LENINGRAD COWBOYS: the singers; in LA VIE DE BOHEME: the composer) and there are some characters who have some or much, but quirky, or misunderstood talent (in LENINGRAD COWBOYS: the band; in LA VIE DE BOHEME: the painter). All of the performers and artists are immensely likable and amusing and their patrons and audience are just as suspect as they are in their taste, but great to be around nonetheless. Moreover, their detractors are cold, a-hole jerks.
Jim Jarmusch makes a funny cameo as a used car salesman. Matti Pellonpää, probably Kaurismaki's favorite actor, is hilarious as Vladimir, the band's beer slugging, tyrannical manager. I love the scene early in the film where he meets with the New York "cousin" of the Finnish talent scout (who also, by the way, has a "cousin" in Mexico). When the New York band booker tells Vladimir that he needs to hear the band play, Vladimir says, "Is that necessary?"
Anyone who loves rock and roll comedies, weird hairstyles and movies about little people with big dreams need to see this film. If you like Kaurismaki films then you may or may not like this film, depending on how square you are. I say check it out. I think it's one of the funniest films I've ever seen. But then again I have had some crazy hairstyles too.
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