Cult Cinema: Leningrad Cowboys Go America

Check out the review of a movie Raul calls better than The Blues Brothers. 

Get ready for some bold statements!!! Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki’s 1989 comedy Leningrad Cowboys Go America is a better musical comedy than The Blues Brothers, and This is Spinal Tap. It should also be considered one of the greatest road movies, and at the very least is the best comedic road picture ever.

The story is about a large Russian polka band and their manager who is advised to go to America because their music isn’t marketable in Russia. After all, Americans will buy anything. Their travels take them from New York to Mexico, Memphis, Natchez, Mississippi, New Orleans, Houston, Galveston, and San Antonio. Along the way they play in various seedy bars and clubs and go through the various hardships that are expected in a typical road film.

Check out our hair, yo. 

The difference between this motion picture and other ones from the road genre is the style and narrative. Part of the hilarity is the way that the band looks; they are all dressed in suits, and all have long quiff hairstyles and absurdly longer winklepicker shoes. It is something that you would expect to see from the silent era of cinema, when Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin wore the bigger than normal shoes. The other thing that makes this funny is the fact that our protagonists are foreigners who have been displaced in a land that they don’t know or understand. They have been isolated and the viewer gets to watch as they deal with the various situations, conflicts, and cultural differences that take place. It is the absurd and wild situations they get involved in and the actors often deadpan reactions that make this so funny. There are also multiple sight gags and one-liners. It could be compared to director Jim Jarmusch’s style of dry wit humor (who also makes a cameo), or the likes of the Coen brothers and the Marx brothers.

Is there a corpse in that box?
The music that's used is also fitting for a tale about people out of place, which features Country, Blues, Rockabilly mixed with elements of Rock and Roll and Punk. Most of these styles of music originate from the poor and displaced. The musical performances in this are excellent. The popularity of this actually led to them start recording and touring as the Leningrad Cowboys, releasing ten albums so far. It also led to a sequel titled Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses and a live concert directed by Kaurismaki called the Total Balalaika Show where they performed alongside the 160 member Russian military bad the Alexandrov Ensemble.

This is great movie and just downright hilarious and truly should be seen by more people. Despite it being considered a foreign film from Finland, most of the dialogue is actually English so that shouldn’t deter anyone from watching this. If you’re a fan of Jim Jarmusch and other low-budget independent filmmakers, or music then you have to see this.

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-Raul VanTassle