- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006

With “Brothers of the Head,” the mockumentary has finally come of age.

There are many comedic examples of the fake documentary: “This Is Spinal Tap” and “Waiting for Guffman” are two of the most celebrated. But few filmmakers have taken advantage of the genre’s dramatic possibilities; “The Blair Witch Project” was overrated and overhyped.

It’s taken a pair of actual documentary filmmakers to rise to the occasion. Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe made “Lost in La Mancha,” the 2002 documentary that chronicled Terry Gilliam’s (unsuccessful) attempt to film “Don Quixote.” The skills they acquired making that acclaimed film are fully in evidence in “Brothers,” a weird and wonderful film about conjoined twins who find success as a proto-punk band in 1974.

Told through “documentary” footage and present-day commentators, “Brothers” fuses pathos and comedy into an almost disturbing unity. Tom and Barry Howe (identical twins Harry and Luke Treadaway, in their startling debuts) are plucked from obscurity in England’s remote L’Estrange Head when their father sells them to svengali Zak Bedderwick. Joined at the hip, literally, the sheltered pair share a liver and a life.

“Hand on my heart, I didn’t exploit anyone [long pause] who didn’t want to be exploited,” Zak insists. The twins enter a brave new world of sex, drugs and roll ‘n’ roll.

Barry is the sullen one and an unlikely lead singer. But he’s too lazy to learn to play guitar. Tom is more outgoing. But Barry has hidden depths. Tom scribbles “unbury me” on the wall — does he really mean “un-Barry me”? As Tom discovers what the world has to offer — including the radiant Laura (Tania Emery) — Barry sinks deeper into despair.

In this mockumentary, which enjoys confusing fact and fiction, some commentators are imaginary characters, while others are real people, like controversial director Ken Russell. (Some of the funniest moments of the film — this isn’t a dry drama — are the bits of Mr. Russell’s unfinished film on the twins, “Two-Way Romeo.”)

Much of the film’s tough pre-punk music was written by Clive Langer, who has produced recordings for David Bowie and Elvis Costello. It deftly evokes the time period. The terrible lyrics are also quite funny.

Despite the humor, this is ultimately a dark tale of love and betrayal. As we realize the twins are conspicuously missing from the group of present-day commentators, we know something terrible has happened. It turns out that Tom and Barry Howe are the most disturbed pair of twins since Jeremy Irons’ Mantle brothers in David Cronenberg’s “Dead Ringers.”

TITLE: “Brothers of the Head”

RATING: R (language, drug use and sexuality)

CREDITS: Directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe. Written by Tony Grisoni based on the novel by Brian Aldiss.

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

WEB SITE: www.brothersofthehead.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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