A whirling dervish of rafter-swinging rebellion, gypsy-punk rockers Gogol Bordello (led by handlebar-mustached beanpole Eugene Hütz—beloved New York DJ, accidental co-star of Everything Is Illuminated, and lead in Madonna’s film Filth and Wisdom) are notorious for their uninhibited, highly theatrical live shows. It would be impossible to bottle that lightning for the screen, but fan and filmmaker Margarita Jimeno’s five-year journey with the band is like a gateway drug, shot in scruffy DV that’s suitable for Hütz’s gleefully debauched, outsider persona. The magnetic frontman, who landed in the U.S. as a political refugee in the early ’90s, after the Chernobyl disaster displaced his Ukrainian family for years, is hilariously candid about his influences (Béla Bartók is a significant one, as is Hütz’s Romani heritage) and his complex relationship to art, politics, and his immigrant identity. We also hear from some of Hütz’s bandmates—the squeezebox player, the violinist, the dancer—about how this crazy nomad roped them into his carnival, but they don’t have enough to say to justify the overlong backstage follies. Still, it’s an exhilarating document, the peak of which is a 1988 home video from Kiev, in which a teenage Hütz wriggles to a Michael Jackson song, and a subtle hint materializes to explain what motivated his impressive ‘stache.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 8, 2009