Though faux-reality presentations have been around since Orson Welles first scared the hell out of New Jersey in 1938 with War of the Worlds, the term "mockumentary" didn't enter our lexicon until Rob Reiner first used it to describe This Is Spinal Tap.
Despite a few notable exceptions (Blair Witch Project, Man Bites Dog), the genre has almost always been associated with comedy, with such hilarious, subversive works as Christopher Guest's Best in Show and Waiting For Guffman, Tim Robbins' Bob Roberts, Woody Allen's Zelig and Peter Jackson's Forgotten Silver.
Though one might guess the story of conjoined twins who front a rock 'n' roll band would lend itself to comedic gold, Brothers of the Head turns out to be a surreal and haunting melodrama.
Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe whose terrific documentary, Lost In La Mancha, captured Terry Gilliam's failed attempt to make a movie about Don Quixote have created a moody and ambitious film that doesn't always work but still gets under your skin.
Based on a novel by Brian Aldiss, the story follows the rise and fall of Tom and Barry Howe (real-life twins Harry and Luke Treadaway), rockstar-beautiful conjoined twins who become the '70s punk sensation The Bang Bang. Sold by their impoverished father to a rock 'n' roll impresario (Howard Attfield), the boys are coached and bullied into becoming musicians a process supposedly captured on film by a hired documentarian. When an attractive journalist enters the mix, love, drugs and jealousy tear the brothers' relationship apart.
Fulton and Pepe use grainy film stock, talking head interviews and handheld camera work to meticulously re-create the period, and have assembled a terrific musical catalog for the brothers, emulating the glam-punk of T-Rex or Joe Strummer's 101ers. Twisting British rock history into a pretzel, they even enlist director Ken Russell to wax poetic on his unfinished movie about the twins, showing clips and outtakes of the fake follow-up to Tommy.
The cast is effectively anonymous and remarkably true-to-life. The Treadaway brothers first time actors are raw and spontaneous, capturing the profound physical and emotional intimacy of conjoined siblings trying to work, live and love alongside each other as individuals.
Unfortunately, Fulton and Pepe never let us get inside their agonized psyches to see what makes them tick. Despite the tinges of homoerotic longing and severe identity issues, Brothers of the Head lacks true psychological depth.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].