Sparks Brothers

Sundance 2021: The Sparks Brothers Review

If you're not a fan of Sparks already, you will be by the end credits.

Edgar Wright and some famous faces pay loving tribute to Sparks, a band that defies mass popularity while still maintaining a niche of dedicated music fans spanning decades of releases.

It’s no shame if you haven’t heard of Ron and Russell Mael, the mysterious duo behind absurdist performance pop-rock band Sparks. “The best British band to ever come out of America,” Sparks is an edgy, arty, and often weird group that has been making music for over 50 years and they show no signs of slowing down. That might be for the best since Wright’s cinematic look at the band will likely introduce the musicians to brand new fans. And it’s no wonder—the more you hear about Sparks, the more interesting they get.

Director Wright is first and foremost a Sparks fan and it’s clear he’s not alone. His glowing tribute to the duo features some of the group’s music peers, which includes some famous faces that have loved and been inspired by their music. The film’s notable talking heads include Flea, Beck, Weird Al Yankovic, Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Duran Duran’s John Taylor and Nick Rhodes, Bjork, Neil Gaiman, Mike Myers, Jason Schwartzman and dozens more—in addition to the Mael brothers themselves. The long list of A-listers seems to cement Sparks as the coolest band you’ve probably never heard of. And that’s okay.

The Sparks Brothers is a documentary for all kinds of fans—those who have been hip to the band since the early days and those who are just tuning in to Wright’s doc just to see their celeb heroes sound-off as fans themselves. Wright has made sure to cater to both groups by making the movie as fun, humourous, and entertaining as possible.

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The film’s format is typical of a music documentary. It mixes talking head interviews, archival footage, and musical performances. The Sparks Brothers clocks in at a lengthy 135-minutes, which may prove daunting to any viewer who isn’t a mega-fan. Wright and his collaborators chronicle the duo’s early days before charting each subsequent release, album-by-album in a chronological look at Sparks’ history. But given the duo’s prolific career—they have 25 studio albums and a handful of live records to their name—it would be doing them a disservice to truncate what’s on offer here. In turn, it is as much a study of changing pop music as it is a look at the logic-defying band, whose profile will only continue to rise in 2021.

Aside from The Sparks Brothers, the movie-loving Maels have also written a musical film. French director Leos Carax’s will make his English-language debut with Annette, a Sparks-scripted story that follows Adam Driver, a comedian, and Marion Cotillard, his soprano wife. Their lives lives take an unexpected turn when their daughter, the titular Annette, is born with “a unique gift”. The film is expected later this year, giving audiences plenty of opportunities in 2021 to get familiar with Sparks.

By the time the credits roll on The Sparks Brothers, the band will surely have found themselves a new generation of fans. Cut to a rise in Spotify searches, as these newbies dig deeper into Sparks’ very weird and entertaining catalogue of music.

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