Aki Kaurismaki's Leningrad Cowboys: Eclipse Series 29 (Leningrad Cowboys Go America/ Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses/ Total Balalaika Show, Plus Five Music Videos) (Criterion)
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In the late eighties and early nineties, Aki Kaurismäki (The Match Factory Girl), the 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 stadium show the band put on in Helsinki for the rollicking documentary Total Balalaika Show. With this Eclipse series, we present these crackpot musical and comic odysseys, along with five Leningrad Cowboys music videos directed by Kaurismäki.
THREE-DVD BOX SET INCLUDES:
LENINGRAD COWBOYS GO AMERICA A struggling Siberian rock band leaves the lonely tundra to tour the United States because, as they are told, “they put up with anything there.” Aki Kaurismäki’s winningly aloof farce follows the men as they bravely make their way across the New World, carrying a coffin full of beer and sporting hairdos like unicorn horns. Leningrad Cowboys Go America was such a sensation that the band gained a real-life cult following.
1989 · 79 MINUTES · COLOR · STEREO · 1.85:1 ASPECT RATIO
LENINGRAD COWBOYS MEET MOSES Living in Mexico with a top-ten hit under their belts, the Leningrad Cowboys have fallen on hard times. When they move north to rejoin their manager (Kaurismäki mainstay Matti Pellonpää) for a gig in Coney Island, he seems to have turned into a delusional self-proclaimed prophet who wishes to lead them back to the promised land of Siberia. Like the first installment, Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses is a road movie, but this time the humorous hardships come from the rocky terrain of the new Europe.
1994 · 94 MINUTES · COLOR · STEREO · 1.85:1 ASPECT RATIO
TOTAL BALALAIKA SHOW Kaurismäki’s documentary of the Leningrad Cowboys’ massive Helsinki Square concert, on Finland’s largest stage, is a loving tribute to the rock band he made famous. Seventy thousand people from Finland and Russia turned out for this megaspectacle, with musical selections, from Sibelius to Bob Dylan, that crossed genre and national divides. And the band was joined onstage by the 150-member Russian Red Army Choir; Variety called it “the most incongruous—and inspired—cross-cultural pairing since Nureyev danced with Miss Piggy.”
ALSO FEATURING THE FOLLOWING LENINGRAD COWBOYS MUSIC VIDEOS: Rocky VI, Thru the Wire, L.A. Woman, These Boots, and Those Were the Days
1994 · 57 MINUTES · COLOR · STEREO · 1.66:1 ASPECT RATIO
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The film, despite its potential snafus to certain audiences, is neither pro-Communist nor spoken in Russian or Finnish (given the director's homeland) with English subtitles but in seldom-used, broken English for the most part with some Mexican Spanish. Aside from that, the stylistic factor is notified by its distant humour and dialogue where much of the comedy and irony comes from the small things they say and the mildly zany things (particularly tame material for a PG-13 film) they do like leave a member of their band to be in a bed of ice with his bass guitar, look at pictures of elderly Russian women out of romantic feelings, or revolt against their secretly greedy band leader. Le Havre, in comparison, is a little more obvious and timed precisely than Leningrad's more freeform aspects.
While the film can be seen at parts as purely hilarious (in a dry manner), the whole film is too spare and slow to be considered a classic or re-watchable especially in the YouTube era of fast-paced comedy. Interesting effort in cross-continental cinema but not entirely a glourious cult effort that The Criterion Collection puts it out as."