The Sparks Brother – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Starring Russell and Rona Mael
In cinemas July 29th
Full disclosure, I’ve been a massive fan of Sparks, the alt-rock pop duo comprised of brothers Ron and Russell Mael, since first discovering them in the 90s. Back in 2006 when Sparks made their first Irish appearance at Electric Picnic, I physically dragged my friends into the tent to see them. They had never heard of them and clearly thought I’d had one too many sherries, but within 10 minutes they were hooked! That is just the kind of band Sparks are; once bitten, forever smitten. They have influenced a multitude of other performers and many of them appear in this film, including Beck, Vince Clarke and Duran Duran.
In this (long overdue) documentary, Wright intersperses interviews with the brothers, their contemporises and even former lovers. You get the impression that the Go Go’s Jane Wiedlan, who enjoyed a brief romance with Russell in the 80s after duetting with the band, has been waiting to have a thinly veiled pop at him ever since. He also includes a massive amount of archive footage using their 25 albums as punctuation marks for each part of the film. Both Ron and Russell come across really well, if a little self-conscious, at being asked to talk about themselves rather than their music (they are a notoriously private duo).
This isn’t your standard Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll story. Rather it’s about the power of persistence and staying true to your artistic vision. Sparks have had more than the odd falling out with their record companies and never released music for purely commercial gain. When asked to make a record that people can dance to they released a song called ‘Music You Can Dance To’ to prove a point – they subsequently parted ways with that label!
This documentary has humour and pathos. The band talk about their humiliations as well as their triumphs. If you are a fan of their music, this encompasses 50 years of their history. Even if you are not a fan it is an impressive analysis of the human experience. The main positive about this film is that it will introduce this wonderful band to a new generation of fans!