Friday, March 19, 2010

Released this week on DVD: "Gogol Bordello Non-Stop"


Grade: C-plus

"It is all sexes, all ages, all nationalities," announces Eugene Hutz, the charismatic Ukrainian-born founder and frontman of the Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, in Margarita Jimeno's choppy, high-energy documentary of the band's rise from a cult phenomenon to international acclaim. The scenes of the nine-member band, which includes two dancers, in theatrical attire cavorting with the audience in a Lower Manhattan club are beyond joyous. Anthems like Immigrant Punk, powered by a frantic pogo beat strung with wild, squealing accordion and violin that suggest demonically fueled klezmer music, generate an ecstatic communal anarchy.

Hutz, a skinny, baggy-eyed live wire with an earring and a waxed handlebar mustache who is partly of Roma descent and who performs shirtless, could be described as the Iggy Pop of an Eastern European sound he says was influenced by Bartok. Having appeared in two films - Everything is Illuminated with Elijah Wood, and the Madonna-directed Filth and Wisdom - he has become a borderline movie star as well as a postpunk guru.

In Gogol Bordello Non-Stop he emerges as a passionate, articulate philosopher of punk's democratic participatory aesthetic who espouses the rejection of social hierarchies in concerts that are raucous, bacchanalian performance-art carnivals.

In the movie's weaker segments several troupe members, who range in age roughly from 25 to 50, tell their stories. By far the most compelling is Jutz's tale of fleeing Kiev on an odyssey that took him through Italy, Austria, Hungary and Poland, landing in Vermont in 1993 through a relocation program.

Near the end of the film he decries how media "brainwashing" and the cultivation of a "celebrity lifestyle" are the almost-too-tempting-to-resist enemies of artistic free expression. So far, it seems, he has held the line.

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