Aki Kaurismaki's Leningrad Cowboys [Criterion Collection] [3 Discs] [DVD]

This box set from the Criterion Collection Eclipse series devotes itself to the Leningrad Cowboys series of works by the master of deadpan Finnish humor, Aki Kaurismaki. First on the roster is the debut feature that introduced the Leningrad Cowboys to the world - 1989's Leningrad Cowboys Go America. It's a comedy in which a group affectionately referred to as "The World's Worst Rock 'n' Roll Band" (from the Finnish tundra) embarks on a tour of small-town America. Next up is the sequel, Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses (1994). This time around, after several of the musicians die off from tequila-induced alcohol poisoning, the rest head from Mexico to Coney Island, and reencounter an old manager who claims to be Moses and then proceeds to lead them to the "promised land" of Siberia. The third film in the st, The Total Balalaika Show, actually constitutes a concert film that emerged after the fictional group encountered real-life success; accompanying this (and rounding out the collection) are five Leningrad Cowboys music videos that Kaurismaki directed.
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Total Balalaika Show
Finland's Leningrad Cowboys meet the ex-Red Army Choir in this inspired Finnish documentary. The Cowboys (a comedy group) claim to be the world's worst rock and roll band. The 100 member Red Army Choir is one of the world's premiere men's choirs. Most of the film chronicles their June 12, 1993 concert together. Over 70,000 people crowded into Helsinki's Senate Square for the event. To their credit the choir remains deadpan and dreadfully serious while the Cowboys cavort and dancing girls appear. Songs include "Volga Boatmen," the Turtle's "Happy Together," "Finlandia," "Let's Work Together," "Delilah" (sung while traditionally garbed Russian women perform a folkdance), "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," and more. For the final song both groups, arms linked, sing "Those Were the Days." ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Leningrad Cowboys Go America
The odd comedies of Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki may be an acquired taste, but it is one which more and more people are getting. The story concerns the exploits of an extremely inept but dedicated troupe of accordian musicians, "The Leningrad Cowboys," whose sheer awfulness puts SCTV's Schmenge brothers in the shade. In fact, in order to stop having to listen to them, a local record producer advises them to go to America, and paints a glowing picture of the success they will enjoy there. These eight Finnish lads (seven living, one very frozen corpse) are dressed as they think true hipster musicians should be (ducktails, sunglasses, fur coats, pointy-toed shoes), and they head off for New York. There they encounter yet another wise guy, who sends them off to Mexico by car to play at his cousin's wedding (he apparently hates his cousin). Along the way, they get bookings wherever they can, learn American music styles, and get along fabulously (by their reckoning). ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi

Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses
This comedy is a sequel to Aki Kaurismaki's successful Leningrad Cowboys Go America. The Lenigrad Cowboys are billed as the "worst rock'n'roll band in the world." In the last film they went to the U.S. In this film they travel from Mexico back to Lennigrad. The story begins in Mexico. The band, after having a top ten hit, decided to settle there. Their success seemed assured until they discovered the joys of tequila which killed off many of the band members. Those that didn't die went native. They were impoverished and living on cactus when they decide to travel to Coney Island to play a gig. They reunite with their old manager Vladimir who now calls himself Moses. He vows to return the band home to "the Promised Land," Siberia. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

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