With so many movies to see at a film festival like Tribeca,
there are always going to be a few that one cannot see. I tried
to see as many as I humanly could but in the 40-odd movies I did
manage to see, none was among the award winners. One of those
on my radar but which for various reasons I managed to miss was
BROTHERS OF THE HEAD, the debut fictional feature by the
documentary team of Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton.

      It's important to recognize Pepe and Fulton's background
because they have drawn on it to create this intriguing film about
a pair of conjoined twins who briefly enjoy a flurry of stardom as
punk rock musicians.
BROTHERS OF THE HEAD also owes a lot to
the weirdness perpetrated on screen by Charlie Kaufman; the film
plays fast and loose with "reality." There are staged "scenes" from
a lost Ken Russell film, an uncompleted biopic of the twins called
TWO-WAY ROMEO, after one of their songs. There are also
staged documentary sequences supposedly shot by director Eddie
Pasqua (Tom Bower) which offer background on the boys' rise and
fall. It's all very "meta," as well as compelling.

        BROTHERS OF THE HEAD opens with footage of Russell's
"lost" movie before segueing to contemporary interviews with
Russell, an actor portraying novelist Brian Aldiss (who wrote the
original book on which the film is based), and others. Although
some have deemed this film a "mockumentary" (in the vein of
THIS IS SPINAL TAP), it is more of black comedy thanks to Tony
Grisoni's screenplay.  

      The twins, Tom and Barry Howe (portrayed by non-conjoined
real-life twins Harry and Luke Treadaway) were raised in an
isolated, rural area on the east coast of England known as
L'Estrange Head by their father and older sister. (Their mother
died shortly after their birth.)

      Eventually, their father sold them at the age of 18 to a former
music hall performer Zak Bedderwick (Howard Attfield). Under
Bedderwick's aegis, the twins are provided with a place to live,
a manager Nick Sidney (Sean Harris) and a musical tutor Paul Day
(Bryan Dick), who had once been part of a punk rock band. The
Howe brothers were to be known as The Bang Bang, with Tom
playing guitar and Barry as the lead singer. Barry, however, often
proved to be "difficult" and Sidney would have to resort to violence
to keep him in line. Things became even more complicated when
rock journalist Laura Ashworth (Tania Emery as a young woman;
Diana Kent in the present-day footage) arrived and she and Tom
fell in love.

      It's a tribute to Fulton and Pepe that much of
plays as if it were the real deal and not a piece of
fiction. They have skillfully blended faux contemporary interviews
with what is supposed to be period footage shot by Pasqua as well
as the fake Russell movie. It all works surprisingly well. The
Treadaway twins do an admirable job. (I couldn't help but recall
the Polish brothers who pulled off a similar feat with their
debut feature
TWIN FALLS IDAHO, and I also appreciated the
shout-out to real-life vaudevillians and conjoined twins Daisy and
Violet Hilton (who were the subject of the ill-fated Broadway
SIDE SHOW). My only caveat is that the musical numbers
aren't all that memorable. But the film that contains them,
BROTHERS OF THE HEAD, definitely is noteworthy.

Rating:                  B+        
MPAA Rating:         R for language, drug use and sexuality
Running time:        93 mins.

                        Viewed at Magno Review One
Brothers of the Head
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.