Saturday, November 12th, 2011


In the intro to my Blog I state that my preferred
choice of movies are the ones that are ‘as weird as possible’.  And I do sit through a lot of them.  However I
have just come across one that may even stand out as the most bizarre to date.
From 1989 comes this movie from maverick Finnish
filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki which is a surreal deadpan comedy that totally amused and
completely dumbfounded me.  It’s the
story of an oddball group of really indifferent musicians who are auditioning
in a barn somewhere in the Siberian tundra. 
They are told that they are so bad that their only hope is to go to
America because ‘they will put up with anything there’.  So a fan gives them the airfare in the
condition they take his dead nephew (in a coffin), as he always wanted to see the
In the USA an Agent tells them he can get them a Gig
playing Madison Square Gardens, but actually ends up booking them to play his
cousin’s wedding in Mexico.  I should
mention that everyone in the Band, including a donkey and dog, sports an exaggerated
ridiculous quiff which looks like a beehive that has been flattened and pushed
forward, and their outfits include outrageous 2 foot long winkle-picker
shoes.  (n.b. the donkey and dog are bare
So the Band buys a second hand Cadillac from a dodgy
dealer (played by film auteur Jim Jarmusch) and they strap the coffin to the roof
and put two armchairs in the trunk for the band members who cannot fit inside,
and set off on their adventures touring the South.  Or rather, their misadventures.  Playing in sleazy dives for  a few odd coins and
living off a diet of beer and raw onions, whilst they change music styles at the
whim of the audience (one place they play rock ‘n roll, the next country music)
their expressions rarely alter.
This outré movie is hard to define.  It’s a wacky comedy that evokes few laughs, yet is
in its own odd way very funny.  
Its farcical but not in a conventional maniacal fashion.  It’s hard to decide if Kaurismaki’s idiosyncratic
style has a touch of real genius,  or just shows someone in urgent need of some
serious psychopathic help?   I’m still
slightly stunned by the whole experience, and even though I am unsure what
I made of it, I am leaning towards the former. 
With a touch of the latter too.
The movie is hard to find, and I was lucky to see it in
a Retrospective at the Miami Beach Cinemateque
Kaurismaki went on to make two more moves with the cowboys (who actually
became a real group) and the 3 of them are available now in a new Box Set from Criterion.  I would advise extremely caution to anyone thinking of watching them all at once!
P.S. Kaurismaki’s main claim to fame is ‘The Man Without A
which won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2002

★★★★★★★★ (I think!)

Posted by queerguru  at  18:23


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