Tracker Pixel for Entry

‘The Sparks Brothers’: Edgar Wright Goes Inside the Maelstrom of Sparks

Cinema | June 14th, 2021

by Greg Carlson

gregcarlson1@gmail.com

17 June 2021

Edgar Wright -- the subject of his own cult of fandom -- knows a thing or two about obsessive devotion to odds and ends of pop culture. And with “The Sparks Brothers,” the filmmaker’s first feature-length foray into nonfiction, Wright applies the same attention to detail and supercharged storytelling that he brings to his fiction worlds. Built to impress longtime listeners and new ears alike, Wright’s love letter to Ron and Russell Mael -- the Southern California brothers whose idiosyncratic and influential records have been part of the art pop landscape for half a century (!) -- complements the sensibilities of the masterminds behind glories like “Kimono My House” and “Angst in My Pants.”

Like the famous quotation (often attributed to Brian Eno) that “not a lot of people bought the first Velvet Underground album, but everyone who did started a band,” Sparks has inspired a wide variety of recording artists who gained greater levels of fame and fortune. From the Sex Pistols to Bjork, Sonic Youth to Duran Duran, Joy Division to the Human League, Ween to Weird Al, and Beck to Depeche Mode, generations of performers fell under the spell of the Mael blend of wickedly arch wordplay and shimmering, rhythmic synth lines.

Wright lines up a murderer’s row of effusive admirers eager and willing to describe the ways in which Sparks blew minds and broke hearts. Jane Wiedlin (hail “Cool Places”), Flea, Jason Schwartzman, Alex Kapranos, and dozens of others contribute in the talking head department, and the anecdotes shared are as delightful and funny as “The Number One Song in Heaven” or “Thank God It’s Not Christmas.” My own first Sparks experience was hearing "Eaten by the Monster of Love" underscoring a classic scene in "Valley Girl," which I first saw on a tiny television that was temporarily allowed in my junior high bedroom because I was sick and out of school for a few days.

Throughout the film, Wright leans heavily on the band’s massive collection of archival audio and video to drive the epic tale forward. The striking visuals designed by the Maels -- from album covers to television appearances -- radiate from the distinctive looks cultivated by Ron and Russell. Ron’s small brush mustache evokes both Chaplin and Hitler, a point which Wright appropriately explores alongside the heartthrob curls and blistering, androgynous falsetto of Russell. The distinctive stage presence of the pair was captured on “American Bandstand” and “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” for thousands of kids who never had the opportunity to see them live.

Sparks also made music videos before MTV was a thing, and Wright takes obvious joy uncorking so many clips of their innovative and expressive short films. Applying the weird science of collage and cut-out animation and the puppet and stop-motion work of Joseph Wallace, who directed the lovely “Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)” for Sparks in 2017, Wright evangelizes as much as possible throughout the film’s generous 140 minute running time. Even though Ron and Russell never quite achieved the complete mainstream success or superstardom they deserved, their legendary status has long been cemented by fierce individuality, bold experimentation, and artistic integrity.

__________________

“The Sparks Brothers” will be in theaters and on-demand starting 18 June 2021.

Recently in:

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comThat old adage no longer applies: There is now such a thing as a free lunch, and it is here to stay. With help from a willing community, the founders of Lunch Aid North Dakota are continuing their…

By Michael M. Miller michael.miller@ndsu.eduLarry Kruckenberg of Cheyenne, WY, a native of Hazen, ND, has authored a new book, “Big Bend Country: A Journey of Good Times, Hard Times, and Hope,” available from GRHC.Kruckenberg…

Thursday, March 19, 4:30- 8 pm1609 19th Ave N, FargoCass County Soil Conservation District is hosting their annual Ladies’ Ag Night supper event. This event has a goal of bringing together multiple generations of women involved…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comIs Texas Senate Bill 8 only the beginning?If it wasn’t so insulting to primates, it looks as if some of the most vocal anti-abortion lawmakers in North Dakota wish to adapt a monkey see monkey do…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.com If This Country Isn’t Going to Hell, It’s Certainly Becoming OneIn that most Christians today no longer believe in Christ’s messages, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to remain one.…

To say that this year’s Bartenders Battle was the best display of talent in the six years since its creation would be an understatement and a disservice to not only the bartenders who made it into the competition, but also the…

Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com15 July 2021With Grand Forks being a hop skip and a cruise away from Fargo-Moorhead, our neighbors to the north have some great dining options. Whether you’re planning on spending a weekend or…

Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com15 July 2021“We have a guy that's been involved with the show for many years as a landlord and knew what it was like in the heydays. So he knows where he wants to take it.” says WE Fest General…

By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.comMatt Myers died unexpectedly on August 20 while exploring Iceland with Dr. Jacqueline Bussie, his partner of 38 years. We are still trying, without success, to make sense of it.His large circle,…

By  Sabrina Hornung sabrina@hpr1.com2021 marks the 18th annual FMVA Studio Crawl, the Fargo-Moorhead Visual Artists’ largest event. This year 38…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comDrag shows, for me, feel like a celebration of artistry, esthetic, music, and camaraderie. With a dash of confetti thrown in.The local drag community is a close-knit family. Giving back to affiliated…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comAdam Quesnell's last show at The Cellar beneath the Front Street Taproom in Fargo was in early September of 2018. He was embarking on a seminal move from Minneapolis to LA. As always, his comedy was…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

By Theresa L. Goodrichsubmit@hpr1.comIt was day ten of our epic southwest road trip and we’d made it to Arizona. After camping in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and New Mexico, we were exhausted, but fortunately our night in…

by Annie Prafckesubmit@hpr1.com17 June 2021On June 19th, from 12pm to 7pm, nonprofit Faith4Hope Scholarship Fund is hosting their first ever Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at Lindenwood Park in Fargo. It is free and open to the…