SXSW 2021 Review: The Sparks Brothers

A still from The Sparks Brothers by Edgar Wright, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jake Polonsky. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B+

Every year I look forward to the SXSW Film Festival, and among my many favorite films offered are the ones screened in the 24 Beats Per Second category. Each documentary provides details about the musicians I already know of or am familiar with, but then I learn so much about someone or something I have never heard of. Growing up, I do not recall hearing of the American musician brothers Ron and Russell Mael. They are better known as The Sparks Brothers and I became familiar with this band’s name only in the recent past, but I was still unable to list one of their popular songs. Imagine my surprise when I learned they have a 50-plus year career and seemed to be more popular in London than the United States. Thanks to filmmaker Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), his tribute to the two brothers and their music, art and performances is offered in “The Sparks Brothers” with music you have probably never heard, but nonetheless is a part of their musical legacy.

Even if you don’t know of them, or think you will pass on hearing their music, Wright’s film is created in a manner that will keep you engaged. He uses different techniques including stop motion and 2D animation, reenactments and interviews with the Maels, along with testimonials from fans. Giorgio Moroder, producer of their album “No. 1 in Heaven,” is among them. The story covers the band’s 25 albums, created with a focused ambition.

The brothers have L.A. roots (in the Pacific Palisades area) with their parents. Their Dad was a film fan and as children they went them him to see all sorts of films and have an appreciation of cinema. He passed away when they were still young and later, their mama enrolled them in music or athletics. Other than this, there is not much more in – depth time exploring their personal lives or how they felt about certain things happening during their career. In an interview segment, Amy Sherman-Palladino remarks about their mystique, yet the music they have created is all that is needed. There are various clips of their performances where Russell (the younger brother) uses the complete stage to express himself in a happy, energetic way and yet Ron is at his keyboard, with his well – known scowl.

Their 50-year career is far from being over yet. Their story, screenplay, music and songs are featured in the movie titled “Annette,” starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. Keep an eye out for the news from the upcoming Cannes Film Festival. Maybe now is a good time to learn more about these artists as    Wright’s documentary opens in theaters June 18 in general release.

It is rated R for language and has a running time of 2 hours, 15 minutes. Check your local theaters for showtimes.

Source: Focus Features, IMDb

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