Total Balalaika Show | Chicago Reader

Total Balalaika Show

Aki Kaurismaki's deadpan comedy Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989) followed the real-life Finnish rock band the Leningrad Cowboys as they tried to conquer the U.S.; this droll one-hour concert film from 1993 documents performances in a Helsinki square that paired the Cowboys with the Red Army Chorus. Kaurismaki uses bizarre angles, strange lighting, and pop-culture iconography to underscore the irony as the two acts alternate numbers (“Volga Boatmen” from the straitlaced Russians, “Knockin' on Heaven's Door” from the pompadoured hipsters), but the biggest laughs come from the incongruous moments when they join forces for numbers like “Happy Together,” a duet between the Russian soloist and the Cowboys' vocalist backed by the massive choir. In Finnish with subtitles. 57 min.


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