Fulton and Pepe thrust us into the lives of the Howe brothers (Luke and Harry Treadway), conjoined by a small extension of flesh at the middle of their ribs. At the age of 18, they are picked up by music promoter Zak Bedderwick and coupled with manager Nick Sydney (Sean Harris, pure sleaze with the moustache to match) and bassist Paul Day (Bryan Dick) to start a rock band. The sessions bring out the differences in the brothers: Tom's quiet sensitivity and genius at guitar and Barry's outlandish and audacious singing. The band's sound emulates punk icons The Sonics and shreds out on stage as Barry taunts the audience to touch the flesh that connects him to Tom. Things go haywire when a woman, medical journalist Laura (Tania Emery), falls for Tom and rouses feelings of wanting freedom from the eccentric, often dangerous Barry.
Done in a pseudomentary (they refuse to call it mockumentary) style, Brothers of the Head mixes normal handheld camera work with avant-garde films the brothers shot themselves and a botched Ken Russell biopic (starring Jonathan Pryce no less). Fulton and Pepe have found a tone that borders on gothic but brings to mind the mystic fogginess of the late 1770 period of Jane Austen's novels. The difference is that where Austen went for a certain romantic sorcery, Brothers of the Head handles itself with an eerily macabre sense of dread.
We hardly get to know the brothers, intentionally, which leaves us to take in all the stories and opinions of their friends and family (they have a sister). Fulton and Pepe sometimes wander into straight creepiness, especially with playing tapes of the brothers talking in their sleep over avant-garde Super-8 footage. What seems so interesting about the information we are given is that we are given almost the full story. The interviews with all involved including Eddie (an excellent Tom Bower), the man who filmed most of the documentary footage, subtly outlines what was going on between the brothers and Tom's growing intolerance brought on by his love for Laura. The last scene with Roberta, their sister, explains how the brothers ended with a haunting omission.
Pepe and Fulton seem to have mastered a certain ability to capture a time period while being authentic both to its trends and their style (not completely unlike Gilliam's work). The storytelling they are doing here (much due respect to ace screenwriter Tony Grisoni) is unlike anything I've seen in awhile; stating a style but not condensing it to some pre-determined end or structure. Frightening and deeply efficient, Fulton and Pepe have staved off their own Lost in La Mancha for at least one more movie.
The DVD includes deleted and extended scenes.
Reviewed as part of the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.
Perhaps a Foghat cover is in order.
In Theaters: Friday 6th October 2006
Distributed by: IFC Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Fresh: 46 Rotten: 22
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Producer: Simon Channing-Williams, Gail Egan
Screenwriter: Tony Grisoni