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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.41%
Worth A Look88.89%
Just Average: 3.7%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

4 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Brothers of the Head
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by Jay Seaver

"The first ever conjoined twin mock rock doc."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL OF BOSTON: Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe are documentarians by trade most known for films about show business like "Lost in La Mancha". Thus, this adaptation of a Brain Aldiss novel takes on that form. It's not just a case where every problem looks like a nail when you're good with a hammer, though; it's a way to bring the audience into an unusual situation.

That situation is the lives of Tom and Barry Howe, a pair of conjoined twins raised in isolation until a musical impresario more or less purchases the seventeen-year-old brothers from their father in the mid-1970s. Rather than becoming the pop novelty act the man envisioned, the pair pick up a punk sensibility, as Barry's songs especially are suffused with anger and raw emotion; they are getting their first chance to express themselves to the outside world and they're not messing around. It's far from an easy or idyllic life, of course, as the house in which they life includes an intrusive documentarian, a "keeper" who locks them in their room and beats them, and a pretty graduate student studying them who quickly comes between the brothers.

Much of what we see is footage shot by "Eddie Pasqua" (Tom Bower), which looks plenty authentic. Presenting the movie this way makes the outré content of conjoined twin punk rockers a bit easier to digest; documentaries invite the audience to view the unusual, as opposed to relating to that part of the characters' lives that is familiar and understandable. In order to show events that wouldn't have been caught on camera, the script posits an earlier (but never completed) adaptation of Aldiss's book by Ken Russell. Russell and Aldiss appear in present-day interviews alongside the other characters, though they're used sparingly (and I half suspect that they're present in order to include a memorable scene described as coming from the book that doesn't quite fit the film's realistic take on the material).

We only see the brothers in 1975 and still pictures from their childhood; early on, sister Robbie lets the cat out of the bag that the brothers died some time ago. They are played by twins Harry Treadaway (Tom) and Luke Treadaway (Barry), who also perform their own songs (writing some of them). Since there's no need for broad mannerisms to tell the characters apart - Tom is on the left, Barry on the right - they're able to just play their characters straight without worrying about the audience confusing them. Not that such crutches would be needed; they both give strong performances, with Barry's unapolagetic anger leaping off the screen at all times, while Tom bottles himself up, only releasing himself on stage. My favorite scenes is a quieter one, when they're asked when they'd consider separation: Tom mentions the event of Barry's death while Barry says they'd go down together.

The rest of the cast is fine, too. Sean Harris plays disciplinarian Nicky in both time periods, and is thoroughly disreputable. Tania Emery is pitch-perfect as the young Laura, a girl who initially at least seems to mean well, but is also inevitably going to be gasoline on a smoldering flame. She may or may not be trouble deliberately, since in aging makeup she seems patently insincere when she says she did nothing to cause a blowup. Diana Kent is suitably sad (30 years later) as Robbie.

The filmmakers are excellent at selling us an environment, and using the tools at their disposal to set the scene as well as trying to replicate straightforward documentary style. The visuals are grimy and murky, looking both authentic and very atmospheric; the lack of proper lighting when the camera intrudes on the brothers in the bedroom or bath makes for a very spooky shot, as they appear to be floating in a black void. The house is a jumbled mess, from omnipresent cocaine to the words the twins have scrawled all over their walls. The other period details are well-accounted for without seeming kitschy, and the "Ken Russel version" is a stylish, fun diversion, especially when the audience gets to play at spotting the likes of Johnathan Pryce.

The choices made while making this film could have rendered it a freakshow, or even worse, a pretentious exercise in self-referentially disappearing up its own rear end. Happily, it sidesteps those pratfalls to become a weird, yet captivating, story.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12802&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/23/06 06:00:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Independent Film Festival of Boston For more in the 2006 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2006 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/23/06 William Goss Realistic to impressive and sometimes grating effect, but what's the point? 3 stars
4/29/06 Jack Stewart One of the best films I've ever seen. The Treadaways mesmerising. Sean Harris inspired. 5 stars
9/23/05 Marc One of the best rock and roll films - great soundtrack 5 stars
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  DVD: 14-Nov-2006



Directed by
  Keith Fulton
  Louis Pepe

Written by
  Tony Grisoni

  Luke Treadaway
  Harry Treadaway
  Tania Emery
  Tom Bower
  Sean Harris
  Will Kemp

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