TUESDAY

It was 1990, the year before the year punk broke, and everything seemed possible. Even a Helsinki balalaika-rock band whose mammoth pompadours and pointy-toed boots suggested the offspring of Elvis Presley and Peter Pan. The Leningrad Cowboys would appear at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York two years later, but most Americans who saw them discovered them first in this film, a deadpan comedy made by eccentric Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki under the clear influence of Jim Jarmusch. (The latter even turns up in a cameo as a used-car salesman.) A few Americans encountered them earlier, however, because most of this movie was actually filmed in the United States, where the minimal story involves the band’s odyssey (in a brand-new used Cadillac) to its only booking: a wedding reception in Mexico. The satire targets the culture of blue-highways America but also tweaks Finland’s biggest actual neighbor, the Soviet Union, which was in the process of collapsing as this 1989 film was being shot. What sustains the one-joke premise, however, is not mockery, but the movie’s warmth and affection for the everyday people who wander into its absurdist orbit. The Cowboys’ cult faded quickly in the United States, and Kaurismäki himself hasn’t had a film released commercially here in several years. But perhaps this screening will lead to a Washington premiere for the sequel, Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses. The Cowboys go America at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 19, at the Library of Congress’ Pickford Theater, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free. For reservations call (202) 707-5677. (Mark Jenkins)