Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ron Mael, Russell Mael, Beck, Jane Wiedlin, Mike Myers, Fred Armisen, Giorgio Moroder, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Nick Rhodes, Steve Jones, John Taylor, Todd Rundgren, Flea, Jason Schwartzman, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Neil Gaiman, Patton Oswalt, Roddy Bottum, Vince Clarke, Andy Bell, Mart Gatiss, Thurston Moore
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Edgar Wright
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 135
Date: 06/18/2021

The Sparks Brothers (2021)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Number One Band in Heaven

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Edgar Wright is a fan as much as he is a filmmaker, and when he found out the band Sparks was following him back on Twitter, he went into peals of excitement. They began conversing, and that led to his first documentary, The Sparks Brothers. The tagline, "Your favorite band's favorite band," is appropriate, and the documentary asks the question: how could a band be so influential, and yet so little known?

The doc travels through the band's history, first introducing us to the brothers: Russell the seductive, sex-symbol singer, and Ron the keyboardist with his weird Chaplin/Hitler-like mustache and evil sneer. It covers most of the band's twenty-odd albums, making arguments for the greatness of each — their masterpiece Kimono My House (1974) is given the same weight as the others — and expressing disbelief at their inevitable commercial slackness. Wright has fun interviewing the brothers, creating little animations and strange little sketches around them, and a jaw-dropping section is devoted to their highly improbable movie appearance in the disaster movie Rollercoaster (1977).

Most impressive is the roster of musicians that turn up to profess their admiration for Sparks, including Beck, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Flea, Jane Wiedlin (of The Go-Go's, who sang a duet with Russell on one of Sparks' best-known singles, "Cool Places"), Giorgio Moroder, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and members of Erasure, Yaz, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Squeeze, New Order, Faith No More, and The Human League, as well as Todd Rundgren, who produced the band's first album. Actors Jason Schwartzman, Mike Myers, Patton Oswalt, Fred Armisen, and Mark Gatiss and writers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Neil Gaiman also appear. That's a lot of fans. After this, you may be one too.

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