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Film Review: “The Sparks Brothers”

Film Review: “The Sparks Brothers”

Edgar Wright’s documentary on the cult pop “band” Sparks (brothers Ron and Russell Mael) is a work of true passion, wit, and affection. The doc spans 50 years to tell the story of how Sparks fought to preserve their unique vision of pop music, despite record label conflicts, inconsistent sales and a public that often didn’t quite “get” their music. Passion and a devoted cult following is what kept them going.

Aside from their unique appearance (a sinister Charlie Chaplin-type on keyboards; a very handsome and erratic Marc Bolan-esque man on the mic), the Sparks brothers have made some of the most witty, bizarre, playful pop in the last 50 years. Give Kimono My House a listen when you can—it rocks. Moreover, they have been notoriously secretive about their history up until now.

It’s clear in every frame that Edgar Wright was determined to not let his film become yet another lame rock-doc or an extra-long installment of VH1 Behind the Music. The stories Sparks and their colleagues tell—brought to life by animations, archival footage and music videos—crackles with silly, devil-may-care optimism and joy. Wright also enlists a whole bevy of celebrity guests to sing the band’s praises, including Beck, Jason Schwartzman, and “Weird Al” Yankovic. This documentary simply shows how true originality can inspire a whole lot of people in vastly different circles.

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images used Courtesy of Harry Smith Archives

Directed by Edgar Wright, Primarily featuring Ron and Russell Mael, Christi Haydon, Dean Menta, Harley Feinstein