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Review: Leningrad Cowboys Go America

How does one approach describing a cinematic experience as singularly unique as Leningrad Cowboys Go America? Watching it is like unearthing a forgotten series of Saturday Night Live skits directed by Werner Herzog. It’s like discovering an unreleased film about Borat’s extended family. It’s like learning that the USSR collaborated with the Zucker Brothers to produce its own bootleg version of The Monkees.

It is, in short, a delightfully bizarre movie.

The episodically structured plot revolves around a Soviet band that is banished by the Communist government for, ironically enough, “lacking commercial appeal.” Assured that “Americans will buy anything,” our intrepid (and incompetent) heroes travel to the United States—depicted here as a hodgepodge of Cold War-era stereotypes that eviscerates both sides of the conflict—where they must contend with such obstacles as a tight-fisted manager, a tagalong village idiot... and the fact that one of their members is literally a frozen corpse. It quickly becomes apparent, however, that their traditional folk music won’t win them any fans; if they want to make it big, they’ll have to study and master the mysterious art of rock and roll.

The result is absurdist comedy par excellence. Sure, the humor is a bit one-note (even the title cards are presented in intentionally broken English)—but hey, it still manages to consistently deliver huge laughs!

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