Edgar Wright, who’s probably better known for his fictional narratives (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) recently premiered his documentary debut at Sundance this last weekend. For a director who is known for his love of music, and how it’s been such an integral part of his filmmaking process, as you would expect this film is a very passionate look at one of his favorite musical acts you’ve probably never heard of, Sparks. In the film Wright makes the case for what could possibly be one of the most influential bands in pop music – that also maintains their reputation of being one of the most overlooked ones as well.
Given Wright’s penchant for rapid fire montages and info dumps, it makes sense he would be a great documentarian, since that’s the point to convey information in an entertaining and engaging manner. Well that’s definitely the case and given the the prolific band comprised of brothers Ron (keyboards) and Russell Mael (vocals) and their musical journey that compromises a half a decade, 25 albums and nearly 500 songs, it’s a lengthy deep dive that Wright does an excellent job at keeping the viewer vested in as the Brothers Mael and their celebrity super fans speak candidly about their career’s ebb and flow. While the film doesn’t dig too deep into the personal lives of the brothers, Wright chooses to wisely focus on the music, where there is more than enough drama available to fuel a compelling story.
Wright serves up an infectious portrait of the pair that will no doubt bring many more to the cause. This is thanks to a passion and enthusiasm on screen you can’t manufacture, that’s present not only in Wright’s own interviews and narration, but the likes of Beck, Mike Myers, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic and Neil Gaiman who all sing the praises of Sparks. Walking away from the film its hard not to be even a little bit curious about the Avant-garde band that had a love for the French New Wave after the film begins tracing back trend after trend, to the duo, in a way that was reminiscent of Jodorowsky’s Dune. For example see Sparks do an entire synthpop album in 1979 years before groups like Depeche Mode or The Pet Shop boys would make that their signature sound.
I would definitely say the doc was a success for me personally, because while I’ve been aware of Sparks over the years, thanks to the super fans in my own orbit, I’ve personally never found an accessible entry point in their diverse catalog.But thanks to Wright, and this doc, I’m most definitely giving them another shot — since he points out as the film goes along albums by album, which records were more accessible for their pop aesthetic and which were more experimental. I think for that fact alone the film is a rousing success, because it makes you not only invested in the subject, but curious enough about their music to seek it out, and because of that I think Wright has given a whole a bunch of film fans their next musical obsession.