directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Finland 1989

The Leningrad Cowboys, one of the most iconographic cult bands, along with The Blues Brothers and Spinal Tap, were formed in the late eighties. The ten man band is despite their name from Helsinki, Finland. Their music have roots in Polka, Finnish and Russian folk music, and their sound is unique, as they blend electric guitar with instruments as the harmonica and tuba. Equally unique is their look: black suits (mostly) and huge unicorn hairstyles, matching their long pointed shoes.

In 1989, Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki made the first of three films about this legendary band with “Leningrad Cowboys Go America”, and with it, his to date most popular film, starring the original line-up of the band.

The corrupt Vladimir (Matti Pellonpää) manages the band and invites the minister of cultural affairs to the Russian tundra to listen to the band. He thinks the band sounds like shit, so he gives him the address of his cousin in New York and tells Vladimir to go to America, because overthere, “they’ll put up with anything.” Arriving in New York, the cousin also has to tell Vladimir that the band sounds like shit and no one wants to hear Polka. He advises him to play Rock’n’Roll and to try their luck in Mexico. Having bought a few sheets, they hit the road, and after many adventures, they finally get a gig playing at a wedding in Mexico and eventually becomes one of the top bands.

Inspired by the technique of Jim Jarmusch, who also has a cameo as a used car dealer, “Leningrad Cowboys go America” shows the willingness to experiment with style and form of Kaurismäki, here using long static takes and episodic chapters, which alter between scripted vignettes and improvised gigs using local people as audience. This and the use of locations, the poor quarters of America, give it almost a documentary feel.

Basically it is a road movie, showing the back roads of the US and involving the locals, it notes upon the legacy of Rock’n’Roll as popular music and how it’s grounded in the American consciousness. But it is also a satire the likeness of communism and musical management, and how easily it becomes corrupted. While the band are exploring the roots of music, Vladimir is exploiting the band, and as the band finally finds its true calling, Vladimir no longer is needed and thus wanders off into the desert.

Like all other films by Kaurismäki, “Leningrad Cowboys go America” is a self-contained little masterpiece, full of his unique quirky humour. A true art-house classic.

Henrik Sylow

Posters

Theatrical Release: March 24, 1989

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DVD Review: Sandrew Metronome - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Henrik Sylow for the Review!

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Distribution

Sandrew Metronome

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:15:40 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.20 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital English
Subtitles Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Sandrew Metronome

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date: December 14, 2004
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Chapters 17

Comments The DVD is a DVD5 edition, with edge enhancements, from none to at times rather thick ones, and red is bleeding. The picture is a little grainy. Sandrew got the source directly from Sputnik, who says that their master is a newly restored version.

The DVD comes completely bare boned, lacking even a simple trailer, with a rudimentary menu one normally only would expect on bootlegs. Again, this is not Sandrew's fault, as the layout basically was dictated by Kaurismäki himself.

The English subtitles are only available when the spoken language isn’t English.

 - Henrik Sylow

 





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