Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Review: Brothers of the Head

An IFC Films/Film Four release 2006

Directed by:
Keith Fulton
Louis Pepe

Writing credits:
Brian Aldiss (novel)
Tony Grisoni (screenplay)

In the 1970s a music promoter plucks Siamese twins from obscurity and grooms them into a freakish rock'n'roll act. A dark tale of sex, strangeness and rock music.

Some movies are made simply to look cool; I think Brothers of the Head is one of those films. Set up as a sort of emphatic mockumentary about a band fronted by Siamese twins, the film has a rich visual aesthetic, full of warped colors, gothic imagery, and slick editing. It's a well assembled piece of cinema, but it lacks one thing - purpose. At the end of the day, the Howe brothers story isn't one that is particularly too enlightening or original; the film follows the typical rocker rise and fall story we've seen and heard a hundred times before, sex/drugs included. Of course the narrative is complicated by the fact that we're watching conjoined twins, but it doesn't really explore that idea in a way that couldn't have been done with a single character. For example, one brother is presented as the quiet, artistic type while the other is aggressive, and in your face. If the brothers are supposed to represent a personality split in two, why not keep them a single character? In the end, their condition comes off more as a strange quirk than story tool, and the film suffers for it. The real question here is how much of the source text is accurately represented; I've never read Brian Aldiss's novel, so I can't really make a comparison.

Directors Fulton & Pepe's previous feature was Lost in La Mancha, an actual documentary following the trials and tribulations surrounding Terry Gilliam's failed production of Don Quixote. Likewise, screenwriter Grisoni drafted Gilliam's version of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. Gilliam's quirky influence and interest in the bizarre seems to have rubbed off on these filmmakers, but it takes more than strange imagery and sadistic humor to make a great movie. I have faith that they will one day make a great picture - they certainly have the visual editing chops - but Brothers of the Head is too innocuous to be the one.

The film was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography.

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