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Finland, 1989 (MIFF 1990, Spotlight Kaurismäki )

Director: Aki Kaurismäki

The Leningrad Cowboys do not enjoy a great deal of success or talent. The boys are used to playing Russian songs written for an all-male choir. What they lack in talent or marketability, is compensated for by their drive for success. Thus, when their manager suggests they leave the tundra for America (one of the band members has frozen to death during an all-night rehearsal) because "they'll take any shit there", they are prepared to sacrifice their cultural identity for a shot at the big-time.

Sporting dark glasses and boots with foot-long points, they take to the road in a Cadillac (purchased from a dealer played by Jim Jarmusch), adding to their repertoire some top 20 hits, as well as country'n'western ditties about collective farming and life on the steppes. Still desperate to make a splash, they go to Mexico where the locals want to hear something lively at weddings and funerals.

Icons of America are familiar and frequent in the films of Aki Kaurismäki, but in Leningrad Cowboys Go America the cultural exchange travels full circle. A playful recreation of the road movie and musical, with a 'fish out of water' theme thrown in for good measure, Leningrad Cowboys Go America represents what promises to be Kaurismäki's most widely seen and internationally successful film to date.
- (PKa)

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