Leningrad Cowboys Go America is a 1989 road movie by Finnish film director Aki Kaurismäki about the adventures of the Leningrad Cowboys, an eccentric band that travels to the United States to become successful, and combines their brand of polka music with various American styles as they make their way to Mexico.
|Leningrad Cowboys Go America|
|Directed by||Aki Kaurismäki|
|Screenplay by||Aki Kaurismäki|
|Edited by||Raija Talvio|
|Music by||Mauri Sumén|
The Leningrad Cowboys, a band with foot-long quiff hairstyles and long Winklepicker shoes to match, live in the tundra. Their manager Vladimir tries to promote them, but nobody seems to like their music, except for the mute village idiot, Igor. They are encouraged to move to America, for people will "buy anything" there. They depart for New York, bringing with them a band member who had frozen the previous night while practicing outside. Igor, who was not invited to come with them, stows away in the plane's baggage hold.
They arrive at the CBGB bar in Manhattan. An agent first suggests they should play at Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium, but after hearing their music, offers them a gig at a wedding in Mexico instead. He also recommends that they change their musical style to rock and roll. They buy a used 1975 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 Limousine, strap the coffin carrying their frozen band member onto the roof and set off to earn their way through the Deep South, adapting their musical style to suit local tastes at each new location. All the while they are being driven on and exploited by Vladimir, who hoards the money, takes most of the food for himself and hides beer in the ice-filled coffin. Meanwhile, Igor follows the band by his own means of transportation. When he finally catches up with them, the band members have revolted against Vladimir and tied him up, but Igor frees him and becomes the band's road manager.
During the trip, the band spends time in jail, has their car engine stolen, causes a nightclub to close after playing an unsuccessful show, and reunites with a long-lost cousin whose singing earns them positive reception from the audience. They eventually make it to Mexico and perform their wedding gig, where Igor revives the thawing bass guitarist with a shot of tequila and joins the group on stage. Vladimir watches them play then wanders off, but the band finally finds success in Mexico, making the top ten.
- Matti Pellonpää as Vladimir Kuzmin (manager)
- Kari Väänänen as The Mute (Igor)
- Jim Jarmusch as car salesman
- Richard Boes as rock promoter
- The Leningrad Cowboys (Sakke Jarvenpää, Heikki Keskinen, Sakari Kuosmanen, Puka Oinonen, Silu Seppälä, Mauri Sumén, Malto Valtonen, Pekka Virtanen) as themselves
- Nicky Tesco as lost cousin
The idea to create the Leningrad Cowboys as an absurd band came from Sleepy Sleepers members Sakke Järvenpää and Mato Valtonen, who asked Kaurismäki to direct a music video for them in 1986. Kaurismäki directed the short film Rocky VI (1986) and the Leningrad Cowboys videos Thru the Wire (1987) and L.A. Woman (1988), and then started work on Leningrad Cowboys Go America.
A soundtrack album was released in 1989.
Sequels and home mediaEdit
Leningrad Cowboys Go America was followed five years later by a sequel, Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses (1994) and a concert film Total Balalaika Show (1994). The film was reissued on DVD in October 2011, as part of the Criterion Collection's Eclipse series, paired with the other two Leningrad Cowboys films.
- Barretta, Scott, Robert Morris: Mississippi Folklife and Folk Artist Directory, retrieved 14 June 2021
- Canby, Vincent (2 November 1990), "Review/Film; On a Musical Journey of Discovery", The New York Times, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 14 June 2021
- Dunne, Susan (17 October 2002), "Good Video Hunting", Hartford Courant, retrieved 15 June 2021
- Elonet. "Leningrad Cowboys Go America" (in Finnish). Retrieved 9 December 2021.
- Green, Willow (23 September 2019), The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema, retrieved 14 June 2021
- Kääpä, Pietari (2010), The National and Beyond The Globalisation of Finnish Cinema in the Films of Aki and Mika Kaurismäki, ISBN 978-3-0353-0034-5, OCLC 859372409, retrieved 14 June 2021
- Koresky, Michael (18 October 2011), Eclipse Series 29: Aki Kaurismäki's Leningrad Cowboys, retrieved 12 June 2021
- Nestingen, Andrew K. (2013), The cinema of Aki Kaurismäki : contrarian stories, London: Wallflower Press, ISBN 978-0-231-85041-4, OCLC 859157920, retrieved 14 June 2021
- Leningrad Cowboys Go America at IMDb
- Leningrad Cowboys Go America at AllMovie
- Leningrad Cowboys Go America at the British Board of Film Classification
- Leningrad Cowboys Go America at the British Film Institute
- Leningrad Cowboys Go America at Elonet (in Finnish)
- Leningrad Cowboys Go America at Rotten Tomatoes
- Leningrad Cowboys Go America at the Swedish Film Institute Database