WHEN THEY WERE KIDS, SIAMESE TWINS BLAKE and Francis Falls would lie on the railroad track waiting for a train to split them; then they would grow new limbs. They had this fantasy not because they saw themselves as freaks, but because everyone else did. Being conjoined was the only life they knew; to them it was "normal." What they could never adjust to was being gawked at. That's why they've lived their life holed up in a ratty hotel room, only venturing out on the one day they can feel normal: Halloween (which is also their birthday).

As another birthday rolls around, they decide to celebrate with chocolate cake and a prostitute (Michele Hicks, who looks like a taller Winona Ryder or a prettier Lara Flynn Boyle). When she sees them, she recoils. Then, when she notices that the weaker of the two, Francis, is sick, her motherly instincts kick in. Suddenly she can see them as people. She even starts falling for Blake, the stronger of the two.

Twin Falls Idaho is a good movie. It's a smart and imaginative American independent film, much more David Lynch than Kevin Smith. By that I mean it's less about snappy pop culture references and more about striking visuals. The look of the film has a somber depth, a richness that would look black and white if the colors were just a little darker. The world that's been created is just a little bit off of what we're used to seeing, which helps to emphasize the relationships within it. These brothers are best friends, but what do you do when your best friend gets a girlfriend? What if you can't leave the budding couple alone to play out their relationship? Sure, the Siamese twins from the Guinness Book of World Records, Chang and Eng, lived to 63 and fathered 22 children, but these twins don't seem capable of such a feat.

The movie was written by and stars Michael and Mark Polish, themselves identical twins, though not conjoined. I spoke with them when they brought their movie to the Seattle International Film Festival. Though they tell me the dynamic often changes, during our interview Michael was the more dominant of the two (he's also the director), always first to answer questions, though Mark was always there to finish a thought or a sentence. The first thing they did was clear up the title for me: It's not based on the song of the same name by Built to Spill, nor the one by Ben Folds Five, and it is not set in Twin Falls, Idaho. Instead, they were going for the kind of title a tabloid TV show might use. You see, they are twins, their last name is Falls, and they are first seen on Idaho Street.

To raise the money for the film, the Polish brothers initially went through the usual channels, submitting the script to the big studios and the "independent" studios. Everyone seemed to like it, but they all wanted to develop it in ways that didn't sit well with the brothers, like casting a "name" actress to star opposite them. That may have helped the marketing of the film, but would have necessarily changed the focus from the twins to her. They didn't want to give in.

A good chunk of what the movie has going for it is originality, and originality is not really a selling point in Hollywood. Says Michael, "My thing was to try not to do what other independents were doing. I think that was the biggest thing, not to do the white wall talkie, very heavy on the dialog. I wanted to do the complete opposite -- "

" -- and create a complete world," adds Mark.

" -- and do what movies did for us when we were younger, where you really suspend your disbelief," finishes Michael. "As far as independents are concerned, I think what's happening now is you're seeing a lot of cheap mainstream material. They say, 'If you have a great story, it doesn't matter what it looks like,' and that's great. That's true, if you have a great story. But it doesn't hurt to have nice visuals to go with it."

I'm sure I wasn't the only one to bring up the David Lynch comparison, and I asked them what they thought of it. "I love the comparison," says Mark. "I just don't think it's -- I mean, it's comparable in the sense that maybe it's a little marginal, a little freaky."

" -- and dark," adds Michael. "I think we're compared because of the low light levels that we use. And we've been compared to the Coen brothers even more because we are brothers. We like to think of the film not as a 'black' dark, but more of a 'chocolate brown' dark. Something that's more painterly."

Though it did get some press when it played the Sundance Film Festival, most of the press (like the review from the L.A. Times' Kenneth Turan) commented on how it was unlike most of the films there: It's a more challenging film than that, a more original film, and consequently not an easy sell. Once the film started getting favorable reviews, however, everything changed.

"We've been offered studio pictures now," says Michael. "The money's great, but I always consider it like having an affair with a rich lady. You're going to look great driving her Mercedes around, but you're going to have to give it back eventually." As for this film, they're just happy to be able to put their uncompromised vision into the theaters, and hope people respond to it. FILM

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