Back in August Julie and I heard an interview of Eugene Hutz, the front man for the gypsy punk band, Gogol Bordello. The story of his life, growing up in the Ukraine, moving to Burlington, VT, and then starting his band in NYC, is fascinating, especially the part about his father’s tendency to hog the spotlight to the extent that Eugene didn’t know he was a talented singer until his high school years.
During the interview they mentioned that Hutz also has a major role in an independent film with Elijah Wood (Frodo that is) called Everything is Illuminated. Of course we had to see it.
This is a movie dealing with weighty, difficult issues that are significantly lightened by the cross-cultural blunders of Wood, an American Jew looking for his family roots in the Ukraine and Hutz, his translator who always picks the wrong words. For example, Hutz’s character asks Wood if he was “proximal” with his grandmother, or describes himself as carnal with the ladies. The search for Wood’s family is described as “rigid.” The dialogue is just right enough to be understood, but just wrong enough to be awkward.
Picking up on the road trip theme, Wood travels with Hutz, Hutz’s grandfather, and the grandfather’s “most officious seeing-eye bitch” dog named “Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.” And the best part? Hutz’s grandfather is the driver. Tension erupts during the journey when Wood alerts his guides that he does not eat meat. Hutz asks, “How about steak? Chicken? Not even sausage?” It’s just as wacky throughout the whole movie.
In the background of this blundering road trip is the heart-breaking tale of Wood’s family who escaped their primarily Jewish village that was devastated by the Nazis during World War II. It’s a story about cherishing one’s past, learning where we come from, and small relics of history that we exist to find.