Now that New York-based gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello fills venues accommodating thousands and charismatic founder-frontman Eugene Hutz has the lead in Madonna's "Filth and Wisdom," the days when the group performs its sonic carnival in intimate club spaces, complete with body surfing, may be numbered.
Now that New York-based gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello fills venues accommodating thousands and charismatic founder-frontman Eugene Hutz has the lead in Madonna’s “Filth and Wisdom,” the days when the group performs its sonic carnival in intimate club spaces, complete with body surfing, may be numbered. Fortunately, Margarita Jimeno’s kinetic docu “Gogol Bordello Non-Stop” offers a record of the “alarming energy” of the ensemble’s early perfs, as well as a cursory sketch of its progress from underground legend to international phenomenon. Further fest play is certain, with niche theatrical a possibility before pic reaps further dividends on DVD.
Born in Ukraine, of one-quarter Romany ancestry (a heritage that informs his music and searing lyrics), the blue-eyed, fair-skinned Hutz is whippet-thin and sports a waxed handlebar mustache that’s part of his flamboyant stage presence. After years spent in various European refugee camps, Hutz came to the U.S. and made a reputation DJing at downtown clubs in New York.
Soon he recruited a group of talented musicians to deliver his specific musical vision: a unique mix of gypsy melodies infused with unbridled hardcore energy. Songs such as “Immigrant Punk” reflect his perspective on having been a stateless person for many years.
Hutz’s fellow immigrant band members include Yuri Lemeshev on accordion, Sergey Ryabtsev on violin, Oren Kaplan on guitar, and Eliot Ferguson on drums, as well as dancer-percussionists Pamela Racine and Elizabeth Sun. Their tales of how they came to work with Hutz, recounted here, show their admiration for his creative powers.
Helmer Jimeno started shooting the group in 2001, capturing the wild magic of their live shows at the Bulgarian Bar (aka Mehanata) in Chinatown and on the road. Storming the stage in surreal costume, Hutz usually ends up bare-chested and drenched in sweat.
Glimpses of the group in rehearsal and behind-the-scenes footage from their tours is interspersed with philosophical commentary from Hutz. He also reminisces about meeting Liev Schrieber, who wanted Gogol Bordello’s music for his film “Everything Is Illuminated,” and wound up casting him as the second lead.
Brief scene of Hutz singing on the “Illuminated” set with Muthana Mohmed, subject of Nina Davenport’s indie docu “Operation Filmmaker,” will tickle the cognoscenti. Equally fine is homemovie footage from 1988 Kiev, proving the young Hutz was always a fine dancer and showing the source of that mustache.
Edited to the rhythm of band’s driving beat, pic starts to lose momentum at the 75-minute-mark when the group takes off on its 2006 European tour. Footage from London, including interviews with a groupie and record store owner, feels like padding, as do extended goofing and jamming scenes.