Thursday, January 22, 2015

Total Balalaika Show

Written and directed by Aki Kaurismaki, Total Balalaika Show is a concert film featuring the Leningrad Cowboys and Alexandrov Ensemble that took place in June of 1993 in Helsinki, Finland. The film is an exploration into Europe’s reunification after the Cold War where Kaurismaki showcases an event at Helsinki’s Senate Square where 70,000 people attended this event. The result is one of the most entertaining concert films ever made.

The film is essentially a concert film where at the Senate Square in Helsinki, Finland on June 12, 1993 as it’s headlined by the Finnish comedy rock band the Leningrad Cowboys as they team up with the Alexandrov Ensemble as the latter consists of a male choir, an orchestra, and dancers from Russia as they’re part of the Red Army in the former Soviet Union. The concert is a mixture Western rock-pop music and traditional Eastern European music all mixed into one as a symbol of Europe’s reunification following the Cold War all through music. Both groups sing various popular rock songs from acts like ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynard, Bob Dylan, and several others as well as traditional European songs.

Through Aki Kaurismaki’s direction, the film captures what goes on in the performance that includes some dance numbers during the songs as the dancers are dressed in traditional folk costumes to a few of the rock songs and some of the traditional songs. Kaurismaki uses some wide shots but also medium shots to present these dances. Even as there’s shots the audience to display how huge the event is as there’s also wide shots of the stage itself. It’s a concert full of exuberance and humor where the Leningrad Cowboys are seen with huge pompadour hairdos and big shoes singing rock songs. The Alexandrov Ensemble are dressed in military uniforms which is a total contrast to who the Cowboys are. However, both groups definitely seem to enjoy themselves as it adds to something that feels special and fun in these performances.

With the help of cinematographer Heikki Ortamo, Kaurismaki definitely gives the film a unique look while the editing of Timo Linnasalo is very straightforward without devolving towards fast-cutting styles so that Kaurismaki can capture a moment and let it happen. The sound work of Jouko Lemme help adds to the sense of exuberance in the music as well as the delight of the audience as it‘s key to the success of the concert.

Total Balalaika Show is a phenomenal film from Aki Kaurismaki. The film isn’t just a concert film that manages to be very entertaining but it’s also filled with great music and performances that showcases a continent reuniting following a dreary period of tension and unrest. In the end, Total Balalaika Show is a dazzling film from Aki Kaurismaki.

Aki Kaurismaki Films: (Crime and Punishment (1983 film)) - (Calamari Union) - Shadows in Paradise - (Hamlet Goes Business) - (Ariel) - (Leningrad Cowboys Go America) - (Dirty Hands) - (The Match Factory Girl) - (I Hired a Contract Killer) - (La Vie de Boheme) - (Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana) - (Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses) - (Drifting Clouds) - (Juha) - (The Man Without a Past) - (Lights in the Dusk) - Le Havre

© thevoid99 2015

No comments: