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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:17 pm 
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Eclipse Series 29: Aki Kaurismäki’s Leningrad Cowboys

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In the late eighties and early nineties, Aki Kaurismäki, 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.

Leningrad Cowboys Go America

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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.”

Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses

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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.

Total Balalaika Show

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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.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:38 pm 
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I assume this is a port of the UK set -- that had the excellent first film, the rather unsuccessul sequel and the very weird (but strangely enjoyable) concert (with the Red Army Chorus -- or something of the sort).


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 3:40 pm 
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I'm assuming these "five music videos" are the shorts that are included in the Artificial Eye set, in which case it would indeed be a clone.

This must be a rare example of an Eclipse set with proper extras!

Anyway, while the second Leningrad Cowboys film is comfortably Kaurismäki's worst, it's worth getting for the first film and the (amazing) concert - here's a taster of the latter. (I played this at my wedding - sadly sans video).


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 3:45 pm 
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Forgot about the shorts -- most of these were more entertaining than The LC Go Moses.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 4:30 pm 
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Well ... I wonder why they don't release his other feature films first ... Has the first box set sold that bad in the US? Or has another company the rights to those films in the US? Okay, I've never felt much love for those Leningrad Cowboys movies ...


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 6:43 pm 
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For years I'd been hoping for this to be in the mainline (even made an old fake Criterion cover years ago), but since I already have the UK set, I'll obviously pass on this one.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:31 pm 

Joined: Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:23 am
For me these are minor Kaurismäki mainly because I'm not a huge LC fan but that being said the image of frozen bass player in Go America must be one of the most hilarious ever!In the interview book I mentioned in Le Havre discussion Peter von Bagh describes the shot to him as "the most brilliant idea in the history of finnish cinema".His answer is laconic as usual:you might be right...


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 3:01 am 

Joined: Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:23 am
manicsounds wrote:
For years I'd been hoping for this to be in the mainline (even made an old fake Criterion cover years ago), but since I already have the UK set, I'll obviously pass on this one.

I would guess that if they ever do a mainline release of a Kaurismäki film it would be either Drifting clouds or Man without a past.Kaurismäki doesn't want any special features for the discs of his movies but maybe he would be willing to make an exception for criterion.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 10:41 am 
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I'm a huge Kaurismaki fan but I just got the sense he stretched the joke a bit thin by creating a sequel to the original
(never mind a Red Army chorus concert)
'Requiescat in Pace', is what I always say!


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2011 4:43 am 
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Yojimbo wrote:
I'm a huge Kaurismaki fan but I just got the sense he stretched the joke a bit thin by creating a sequel to the original (never mind a Red Army chorus concert)

While I completely agree with you about the sequel (I'm not sure I even made it to the end, and I've seen pretty much everything else that Kaurismäki ever shot), the concert is pretty sui generis - and it's also worth highlighting that it captures a very specific emotional moment for Finns, given the then very recent collapse of the Soviet Union and the fact that they've long had an understandably fraught relationship with Russia (with whom they share the longest border of any European country). So there's something strangely moving - as well as monumentally absurd - about seeing the Red Army Chorus plus ukulele orchestra team up with a Finnish rock'n'roll band to perform mainly cover versions of American songs.

I first saw Total Balalaika Show in the second half of a double bill with Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatjana, the film that my girlfriend and I had primarily gone out to see - and we both emerged with face-splitting grins. It's one of the most ridiculously joyous films I've ever seen.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 12:11 pm 
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DVDBeaver


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 1:24 pm 
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When I saw the first pair of grabs, I was convinced that the British version was a bit different - and, sure enough...

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The last grab is from the original UK theatrical release version, as reproduced on the For One Week Only documentary on one of the Artificial Eye volumes. I don't have the UK Leningrad Cowboys set, so I don't know if they've maintained the same translation - and of course I don't speak a word of Finnish, so have no way of knowing which is more accurate.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 1:32 pm 
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Considering the three grabs you posted though it seems that the criterion one is typically more off as the other two reference obliviousness while the American does money.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 1:57 pm 
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"They'll buy anything" is a way of saying they'll fall for anything, and not a literal reference to buying something with money. It, basically, means the same thing as the translation on the British release. Those two are different than the Scandinavian translation, which is a reference to tolerating something, while the British and UK translation are both saying that they are ignorant and will fall for anything.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 9:17 am 
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It's Zazie dans le métro all over again!!! :P


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 9:59 am 

Joined: Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:23 am
Just checked that scene on YouTube and as finnish speaker I'd say the scandinavian one is most accurate.UK translation is however the best in the sense that it's the funniest but as a strict translation it's not even close.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2011 11:20 am 
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The biggest problem with Meet Moses—I only just saw it for the first time thanks to this set—is that the Cowboys are such passive characters (even more so than they were in Go America) that it becomes a deadening experience to watch misery upon misery inflicted upon them. There's little emotional release here. I wish notes-writer Michael Koresky had undertook some sort of defense of the film. He doesn't; he calls it more challenging and adventurous than its predecessor, but doesn't bother to explain how or in what way. (Challenging to sit through, perhaps?) He also offers some utterly unhelpful quotes from Kaurismäki re: the film's negative reception. Oh well. There's still a handful of Kaurismäki films I've yet to see; none of which can possibly be as lousy as this one.

It was a treat to revisit Go America, which I hadn't seen in years. I also enjoyed Total Balalaika Show and the music videos, none of which I'd seen before.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2011 3:34 pm 
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The LC sequel (Moses) stands alone -- every other Kaurismaki film is good or better (most are better than good, in fact). ;~}


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2011 3:47 pm 
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That sort of does bring up a good point though. What was he trying to do with Moses? The notes vaguely give hints to a commentary on post Soviet Europe, but that's pretty clear just from watching the movie. What exactly that commentary is suppose to though is too jumbled for me to figure out. It probably doesn't help that Kaurismaki didn't put many blaring gags out there like in the first movie. I think it goes beyond the Cowboy's passiveness and into not building anything off of that passiveness like with the first film where side characters (most notably the idiot and manager) were boisterous enough to make up for that general lacking. By themselves the characters are simply not interesting.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2011 4:29 pm 
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Michael Kerpan wrote:
The LC sequel (Moses) stands alone -- every other Kaurismaki film is good or better (most are better than good, in fact). ;~}

I've seen every feature he directed apart from Le Havre and quite a few others that he contributed to (for instance The Liar and Aaltra), and can honestly say that Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses is his worst by light years - and, as you say, it's his only out-and-out bad film.

Which is a tad ironic given that Kaurismäki repeatedly insists that all his other films are terrible, that he's a lousy director, and so on. A director's commentary from him would be hysterical, but I just can't imagine it happening.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:10 am 

Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 3:23 pm
Moses is not that bad. It's certainly near the bottom, but I'd place it above Crime & Punishment, Juha or Tatiana.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:19 am 
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mteller wrote:
Moses is not that bad. It's certainly near the bottom, but I'd place it above Crime & Punishment, Juha or Tatiana.

Tatiana is one of my favourites.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:26 am 

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I think that one might have been too specifically Finnish for me. However, there isn't any Kaurismaki film that I dislike, just ones I like less than others. I'm a bit perplexed by the hate Moses is getting in this thread. It's not as fun as Go America, but there's some pretty funny bits.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:57 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
mteller wrote:
Moses is not that bad. It's certainly near the bottom, but I'd place it above Crime & Punishment, Juha or Tatiana.

Tatiana is one of my favourites.
Tatiana IS my favorite (if I were forced to pick just one, which I would rather not have to do, mind you). And I think Crime and Punishment is pretty decent. I will admit Juha is erratic (and ultimately unsatisfying to me) -- but still it is not the sort of clunker that Moses is (I found almost nothing funny in this, I remember just hoping for it to end soon).


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:45 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
When I saw the first pair of grabs, I was convinced that the British version was a bit different - and, sure enough...

Image

The last grab is from the original UK theatrical release version, as reproduced on the For One Week Only documentary on one of the Artificial Eye volumes. I don't have the UK Leningrad Cowboys set, so I don't know if they've maintained the same translation - and of course I don't speak a word of Finnish, so have no way of knowing which is more accurate.

I interviewed Kaurismäki for Sight & Sound this morning, and couldn't resist preloading those stills onto my iPad to show him - and he assured me that the Artificial Eye translation was by far the most accurate.

Of course, this in no way devalues JPJ's opinion, which I'm sure is far more technically correct.


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