Brothers Of The Head

on July 28, 2006 by Tim Cogshell
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The film "Two-Way Romeo," directed by Ken Russell, tells the story of the brothers Howe, Tom and Barry, conjoined twins linked by a thick band of flesh that attaches them at the chest such that they are usually facing each other. In the mid-'70s, a documentary about the Howes chronicled their explosion onto the London punk scene as a band called The Bang Bang. The Howes, with their sexually charged performances of quintessentially punk anthems, were as much a curiosity as they were a punk band, but, as it turned out, they were a punk band indeed. They hit with a force that only an literal rock 'n' roll freak show could possibly muster. Just as quickly, they disappeared, their story dissolving into latter-day rock n' roll lore, alongside the legend of Robert Johnson at the crossroads and a drummer called Pete Best.

Except... the Howe twins didn't actually exist. There was no iconic punk band called The Bang Bang that only put out one album. No film or documentary captured their tumultuous, short lives. "Brothers of the Head" is a fiction, adapted from the novel by Brian Aldiss. The best element that filmmakers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe ("Lost in La Mancha") apply to "Brothers of the Head" is the element of sophism found in the book. They tell this tale as though it were true. Right down to shooting the film-within-the-film that Ken Russell did not actually make, and then interviewing Russell and having him call it "some of my best work." The commitment to making this narrative seem as real as possible renders it just plausible enough to give one pause. An audience of a certain age may, with all sincerity, remember The Bang Bang, recall buying their one and only album in '76, may even believe they saw them at CBGBs.

The confabulated narrative of "Brothers of the Head" is roaming and complicated, involving doomed love affairs and powerful performances shot documentary-style as though they were captured on the day. It's a delicate act to pull off and it may not all hang together perfectly, but it's impressive nonetheless. That, along with some raging era-perfect fake punk music and the distinct and charismatic performances by the Treadaway brothers (who play the Howes) makes "Brothers of the Head" one of the trippiest movies since "The Man Who Fell to Earth," which is a documentary about Ziggy Stardust pretending to be David Bowie playing an alien rock star incognito... right? Starring Harry Treadaway, Luke Treadaway, Tom Bower, Bryan Dick, Steven Eagles, Tania Emery, Sean Harris and Ken Russell. Directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe. Written by Tony Grisoni. Produced by Simon Channing-Williams and Gail Egan. An IFC release. Drama. Rated R for language, drug use and sexuality. Running time: 120 min

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