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Eclipse Series 29: Aki Kaurismäki's Leningrad Cowboys

 

Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989)


Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses (1994)


Total Balalaika Show (1994)

 

In the late eighties, Aki Kaurismäki, a master of the deadpan, fashioned a waggish fish-out-of-water tale about a U.S. tour by “the worst rock-and-roll band in the world.” Leningrad Cowboys Go America’s posse of fur-coated, outrageously pompadoured hipsters struck such a chord with international audiences that the fictional band became a genuine attraction, touring the world. Later, Kaurismäki created a sequel, Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses, and filmed a gigantic outdoor concert that the band put on in Helsinki, for the rollicking documentary Total Balalaika Show. With this Eclipse series, we present all three crackpot musical and comic odysseys, along with five Leningrad Cowboys music videos also directed by Kaurismäki.

Titles


Leningrad Cowboys Go America
Aki Kaurismäki 1989

A struggling Siberian rock band leaves the lonely tundra to tour the United States because, as they’re told, “they’ll buy anything there.”

Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses
Aki Kaurismäki 1994

Living in Mexico with a top-ten hit under their belts, the Leningrad Cowboys have fallen on hard times. When they head north to rejoin their manager (Kaurismäki mainstay Matti Pellonpää) for a gig in Coney Island, he has turned into a self-proclaimed prophet.

Total Balalaika Show
Aki Kaurismäki 1994

Aki Kaurismäki’s film of the Leningrad Cowboys’ massive concert in Helsinki’s Senate Square with the 150-member Alexandrov Red Army Chorus and Dance Ensemble is a loving tribute to the rock band he made famous.


Posters

Theatrical Releases: 1989 - 1994

  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Eclipse Series 29: Aki Kaurismaki's Leningrad Cowboys (3-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

 

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC
Bitrates: Respective bitrates - 7.27, 6.10, 6.67 mb/s
Time: Respectively - 1:19:06, 1:34:00, and :57:02
Bitrate:

Go America

Bitrate:

Meets Moses

Bitrate:

Total Balalaika Show

Audio 2.0 channel Dolby
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Eclipse / Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.85:1 

Edition Details:

  •  one page (for each film) of liner notes in the transparent case

  •  5 Music Videos (8:39, 5:47, 4:39, 4:47, 5:15)


DVD Release Date: October 18th, 2011

3 Slim Transparent Keep Cases inside a Slipcase cardboard box
Chapters: 21, 14, 12

 

 

Comments:

The 3 features of this boxset are housed in individual slim transparent keep cases and they are not sold separately by Criterion or in NTSC at this time.

All three DVDs are single-layered, progressive in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and are coded for Region 1 in the NTSC standard. The audio is flat but acceptable and there are optional English subtitles. The Eclipse, then Janus, logos precede each film.

We have compared to existing frames of Sandrew Metronome versions of Leningrad Cowboys Go America and Total Balalaika Show previously reviewed by Henrik. The individual transfers match up well with the PAL ones - as good as or slightly better. Bitrates vary from about 6-7.5 mbps. Meet Moses probably looks the best but the image quality on all three is acceptable and make the films completely watchable.   

 

Aside from one page liner notes for each film (visible on the inner case sleeve through the transparent case cover) the last disc, Total Balalaika Show,  has five Leningrad Cowboys music videos also directed by Kaurismäki running almost 1/2 hour in total

With the kitschy appeal of the Leningrad Cowboy films - this package is a great idea. No fuss, no muss - and pure entertainment. The pleasure factor is quite high and in the right mood these can be watched any evening for some belly laughs. Once you get into this - you only want more. I applaud the Eclipse decision to package these gems in one set. Strongly recommended!

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus


 


 

Comparison

 

Eclipse - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Sandrew Metronome - Region 2 - PAL- reviewed HERE

 

 Case Covers

 

 

 

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 over there, “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

 

Screen Captures

 

Eclipse - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Sandrew Metronome - Region 2 - PAL - reviewed HERE - BOTTOM

 

 

Eclipse - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Sandrew Metronome - Region 2 - PAL - reviewed HERE - BOTTOM

 

 

More Eclipse Captures

 



 

Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 




 


 

Comparison

 

Eclipse - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Sandrew Metronome - Region 2 - PAL- reviewed HERE

 

 Case Covers

 

 

 

"Make tractors, not war"


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”, his to date most popular film, starring the original line-up of the band, and telling the story of how the band went from Russian tundra failure to a top band in Mexico. It was followed by “Leningrad Cowboys Meets Moses” in 1994, where the band returned to Europe and toured France, Chzeck republic and Poland, before returning home to the tundra. The third and last installment was the concert film, “Total Balalaika Show”.

In 1993, the Leningrad Cowboys performed live in Senate Square, Helsinki in front of 70,000 ecstatic fans, along with the Russian Red Army Choir. In the spirit of glasnost (Russian: openness), the concert embraces East meeting West, thru Russian Folk music and Finnish interpretive Rock music, with classics like Kalinka and The Volga Boat Man (Russian), and Delilah and Gimme All Your Lovin (Rock).

As in the two prior Leningrad Cowboy films, Kaurismäki once more notes upon the importance of musical roots. Where other rock bands took to Moscow and performed their music, the Leningrad Cowboys invites the Russians to share their musical legacy and history.

Ok, so the Leningrad Cowboys aren’t the best band in the world, but there wont be any concert like this again. It is full of great music and the love for it, and isn’t that in the end what a great concert is all about? Warmly recommended.

Henrik Sylow

Eclipse - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Sandrew Metronome - Region 2 - PAL - reviewed HERE - BOTTOM

 

 

 

Eclipse - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Sandrew Metronome - Region 2 - PAL - reviewed HERE - BOTTOM

 



 


 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

 

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