Tonight I watched Leningrad Cowboys Go America, a 1989 road movie about a Finnish folk band trying their luck stateside. It's a bit bonkers, frankly - but in a good way. The band all sport huge horizontal outwards-facing quiffs and walk about wearing comically oversized winkle-pickers (so we now know from where Vic Reeves's Davy Stott took his footwear inspiration).
Anyway, there's not much of a plot to speak of: the band are rejected by a local impresario so fly overseas to New York, where they're once again dismissed out of hand by a music biz big-wig, who nonetheless recommends that they drive south to Mexico where his cousin needs a band to play at his forthcoming wedding. So off they go. Along the way they stop in some of the less salubrious areas of the southern United States and play gigs to largely-bemused and/or unimpressed locals to pay their way. Oh, and they learn to play rock 'n' roll. Did I mention that they've also brought their recently-deceased bass player along for the ride? Because, naturally, they have.
But the plot's not really important; it's the quirky, surreal nature of the film and its taciturn yet likeable protaganists, combined with the actually rollicking good music (the Leningrad Cowboys are an actual, long-established band outside of the film) that makes Leningrad Cowboys Go America a winner. I watched it on DVD but the whole thing's available in six parts on YouTube, so why not jump straight in. (The first eight or nine minutes are in Finnish but the dialogue's all English after that, as the band's imperious manager insists that if they're going to be big stars in America, they'd better speak - or learn - the lingo!)
Mildly Interesting Film Fact: Cult director Jim Jarmusch makes a cameo appearance in this movie as a used car salesman, although this wasn't one of his own films - it was directed by Aki Kaurismaki.
Buy the Leningrad Cowboys Collection DVD boxset
Returning: Stage & Screen - Arts program Stage & Screen returns next month, but with a change to its line-up.
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