Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989, Aki Kaurismaki)

“Do you know Mexico?”
“… Sure.”
“Go there.”

Ridiculous comedy about soviet musicians who head to America to find their fortune. The movie’s deadpan consistency won me over. By the time the “deceased” band member they’ve been carrying frozen atop their car thaws out and joins them mid-song (a development I saw coming an hour earlier but still enjoyed watching), I was happy that there are sequels to look forward to.

Bunch of guys who look like TV’s Frank and wear pointy clown shoes to match their haircuts go on a road trip through America (from NYC to Mexico), playing small clubs along the way. They’re all pretty indistinguishable except for their tyrannical manager, the long-lost cousin they pick up somewhere in Texas, and the idiot Igor who followed them from home attempting to help. A.K. lets the songs play out, making it a sort of concert film.

Kaurismaki was in synch with Jarmusch, shooting in all the same locations as his earlier Down By Law the same year Jim was filming the similarly rockabilly-referencing Mystery Train. He appears as a car dealer in this one. The Idiot is Kari Väänänen (Polonius in Hamlet Goes Business) – he and band manager Matti Pellonpää have been in a bunch of Kaurismaki’s movies.

Igor at a Memphis barber shop:

Thru the Wire (1987)

Criterion/Hulu also had some of A.K.’s short films. This is a noirish clip – Nicky Tesco (cousin/vocalist from the feature) escapes from prison, seeks his woman while being chased by cops.

Rocky VI (1986)

Giant Russian Igor completely destroys wispy American Rocky (and some officials) in the ring. The music track is dark, with layered vocal samples – and yodeling, at one point.