Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton’s fake documentary “Brothers of the Head” is one of the most densely referential movies I’ve seen in a long time, and yet also one of the most original, apocrypha of the highest order that begins as a great, gorgeous goof about conjoined twins Tom and Barry Howe, who like the infamous Hilton Twins, were exploited by a promoter to become a sideshow act. But as played by heart-racingly pretty twins Harry and Luke Treadaway—chunky shag haircuts, full, pouty mouths, matching unfinished bone structures, big, hurt blue eyes— the satire of 1970s rock ‘n’ roll grows into something richer, a sublime and darkly beautiful film about love unto death that amazed me for its just-right length. The heart and spirit of “Spinal Tap” hover nearby as we hear testimony of how pop concoction The Bang Bang grew into a personal, angry statement about identity and selfhood for the duo. “Brothers of the Head” includes Ken Russell talking about a version of their life he never completed (as the Sex Pistols had an unfinished Russ Meyer movie). It evokes “Gimme Shelter.” It’s Bruce Robinson-like, grotty and clever and verbal like “Withnail and I.” It’s Gillliamesque, and written by Terry Gilliam’s customary screenwriter Tony Grisoni, and they directed a doc on the making of “12 Monkeys” as well as “Lost in La Mancha.” Mike Leigh? Check out the chipped, dodgy, nicotine-patina interiors. The Brothers Quay: for sheer delicious eccentricity. Plus I wept. More than once. The last shot would tickle Cocteau. The lush, diversely styled camerawork is by Anthony Dod Mantle. Based on a novel by Brian Aldiss. (A neat stroke by producer Simon Channing-Williams, Mike Leigh’s producer who was preparing “The Constant Gardener” in Kenya: the spooky childhood scenes were in fact shot in Africa rather than the UK.) 90m. (Ray Pride)
“Brothers of the Head” opens Friday at Landmark Century.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.