Theatrical quirk-pop pranksters Sparks have been confounding audiences since the 1970s. While the band, led by brothers Ron and Russell Mael, found their greatest profile within the glam-rock genre, their pop smarts, wry sense of humor and Gilbert & Sullivan-esque musicality consigned them to cult status. Their closest analogue in the 70s was maybe Queen, but their oddness came to encompass electronic and disco elements, rendering them perpetual outliers.
In 2009, the duo released the album The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, a concept album exploring what might have happened if the Swedish auteur was tempted and ruined by Hollywood. They’ve since been in talks with trailblazing Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin to transform the album into a musical film for several years now (they’ve performed it live with Maddin’s help a few times, and Jason Schwartzman was going to be involved in the film project at the time). While it’s been a while since we’ve heard anything about the Maddin project, in a recent Billboard interview (via Filmmaker Mag), Russell Mael confirmed “The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman” is still in the works.
“One [project] has already been out there as an album of ours called The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, which we premiered in a sort of live staging at the L.A. Film Festival three years ago,” he said. “It’s to be directed by Guy Maddin who is an amazing director, and we just thought his sensibility would work with this story, which is: What if Ingmar Bergman had been lured to Hollywood with the idea of being able to take advantage of the money that’s available to him here to further his art, but then he got locked into Hollywood in his own worst nightmare?”
The brothers have a second musical, this one with “Holy Motors” director Leos Carax, in the works.
“Then there’s a second project we’ve worked on —a full movie musical with the French director Leo Carax, whose last film was ‘Holy Motors.’ These two projects are sort of running their simultaneous course; this project with Carax is moving along the fast track quicker than the Bergman project has,” Mael continued. “These won’t be done in a Broadway, razzmatazz kind of way. They’re both all music, where sometimes the story is being progressed through dialogue that’s done in a hyper-stylized, sung/spoken way. They’re both pretty uncompromising, but at the same time we think they’re really accessible. Going back to Kimono My House, [the best known Sparks album and which is beloved by their hardcore fans], especially with the song “This Town,” it was its uniqueness that appealed to a lot of people.”
Sparks recently composed the song “The Final Derriere” for Maddin’s latest dreamscape wonder “The Forbidden Room” that premiered at Sundance and the song “How Are You Getting Home?” from their 1975 album Indiscreet was used in Carax’s aforementioned “Holy Motors.” You can see that scene below, plus a trailer for Sparks’ live performance of ‘Ingmar Bergman.’ Fingers crossed that funding comes through for both projects.