Saturday, July 29, 2006

Brothers of the Head

Freakier than The Wall and more moving than Almost Famous, Brothers of the Head will implant images in your head that you won't be able to shake. I knew going in that the movie was a fake documentary (mocumentary doesn't seem appropriate, because it's not funny), but if I hadn't, I might have believed this was actually a true story of conjoined twins who become rock stars. The film was lensed by Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton, the team behind Lost in La Mancha, and these documentarians really know how to make it look like a convincing documentary.

Brothers of the Head, adapted from a novella by Brian Adliss, tells the story of Tom (Harry Treadway) and Barry Howe (Luke Treadway). Tom and Barry are conjoined twins whose mother died shortly after their birth (village rumors say she died of shock at seeing them) and whose father whisked them off to a remote English bog where they grew up isolated from the world. Concerned about how they'll survive after his death, he sells them to a music promoter (Howard Attfield), who reminded me of that creepy guy who managed the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync. The promoter declares, "I never exploited anyone who didn't want to be exploited." Handlers then take the boys and mold them into a band, but not without a lot of resistance from Barry, the angry and rebellious twin. Tom takes to the guitar and Barry emerges as lead singer of the band called the Bang Bang. Their debut gig brings jeers at first when the audience assumes they're queer because they're so close together and then shock and awe when they lift their shirts and reveal they're conjoined. Before long they attract a following and have a hit single "Two Way Romeo." A music journalist (Tania Emery) writes a story on the band and falls in love with Tom, causing more frustration in Barry who has no choice but to be a voyeur as the two canoodle. The twins embark on a journey from innocence to experience amid the drug haze of the late 70s English punk scene.

The story is told through a pseudo-documentary being shot by Eddie (Tom Bower), a filmmaker within the film. There are interviews with key players in the story supposedly in the present time looking back on what transpired. There's another layer in which Ken Russell appears as himself and shows clips of Two Way Romeo, a biopic he allegedly made about the band. It's not surprising that Ken would be supportive of this way-out endeavor.

These stylized machinations would all likely be more clever than compelling if not for the brilliant lead performances of identical twin brothers Luke and Harry Treadway. Neither had been in a film before, but they have a riveting presence. They are able to convey the intimacy and friendship between the brothers along with the rivalry and bitterness that grows between them. And despite being conjoined, they have a sexy swagger about them that recalls a young Mick Jagger and makes it quite believable that they could be rock stars. My only regret about the film is that its two stars get a bit lost in the haunting, yet frustratingly nebulous ending.

The film is so meta - it might make your head explode. But go see it anyway.

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