Imagine you’re making a movie. Imagine the magnificent Michael Fassbender has agreed to sign up as your lead actor. ‘Back of the net!’ you’re thinking. What you’re probably not thinking is ‘Let’s hide his award winning mug behind a giant papier-mâché mask’. But in Frank, the filmmakers do exactly that.
Frank loosely recounts the story of Chris Sievey who created the character of ‘Frank Sidebottom’, a musician and comedian in the 1980’s, who wore a giant, cartoonish mask onstage. Drawn from the memoires of Sievey’s keyboard player, Jon Ronson (Domnhall Gleeson), Frank explores the somewhat unorthodox methods Sievey used in the pursuit of true creativity.
We meet Jon as an enthusiastic young pup who encounters punk band Soronprfbs (a name so cool it’s never pronounced out loud) about to play a local gig. Swept up in band leader Frank’s hypnotic charisma, on discovering their keyboard player has had a breakdown, Jon packs in his job and joins the band to work on their new album in a woodland retreat. But these are no simple rehearsals. Perfectionist Frank invents new instruments, records abstract sounds, pushes his motley crew to their emotional limits and beyond with the glassy eyed zeal of a cult leader. Well, we presume glassy eyed as he never, ever removes the mask, even when showering. When this becomes too much even for Jon, Frank accommodatingly describes the expressions on his unseen face: “kind smile” to aid comprehension. As cabin fever sets in the remainder of the band, including the wonderfully acerbic Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and French speaking bass player Baraque (Francois Civil), war with Jon and each other, the atmosphere degenerating from bad to worse.
Partly an exploration of the eccentric methods of the truly creative, partly a sly satire on the self-indulgence that comes with creativity, Frank is consistently entertaining and often quite hilarious. But for The Sloth, the highlight was an unexpectedly poignant ending that makes astute observations on the fine line between eccentricity and genuine mental health issues. Oh, and if you were wondering, the mighty Fassbender proves yes, he can act his way out of a paper bag.
Something equally quirky? Try The Double.
UK release 9 May