Thursday, March 19, 2015

DVD of the Week: Frank


So after last weeks very arty, very weird trip Under the Skin, I was ready for something with perhaps a little more narrative clarity. Something less strange, perhaps, something easier to digest. Our choices, however, where 12 Years a Slave, which I now have to admit I'm putting off, and the story of a man wearing a giant, fibreglass head, Frank. We went for the latter, which was very arty, very weird, definitely lacking in narrative clarity. As a result, I'm definitely starting to feel the urge for a little cinematic junk food!

Frank is very loosely based on Jon Ronson's time in the band of Frank Sidebottom, a British comedian who was reasonably well known when I was a kid. I don't really remember much about him apart from the strange voice and the electronic organ, and I can't even say if I found him funny so much as striking and strange. The film doesn't, apparently, have much relation to the character outside of the visuals and some of the musical stylings, but does draw on a low of real people from the art-rock scene of which I know very little. However, the main thrust of the film is that of an outsider being drawn into that world, which helps on that front. 

The film follows Jon, an aspiring musician who finds himself playing keyboard for a band called Soronprfbs, whose enigmatic lead singer is never without his large fibreglass head. They make strange, hypnotic and experimental music, live insular, somewhat sparse lives, and much of the film is taken up with the recording of their album, a lonely stint in an Irish cottage. As the film unfolds, Jon is drawn to Franks genius, and becomes driven to contribute, mold and guide the band to greater acclaim. As you might expect, the film gradually takes a darker, more obsessive turn as things unfold. 

Frank is, to be honest, bloody weird. As befits it's subject, it carries an offbeat, independent sensibility with it that is both distancing and endearing. All of the characters are difficult, but all of them are empathetic. The arc of the movie is, ultimately, pretty straightforward but only in retrospect - a neat trick - and it's final notes surprisingly warm. Along the way it manages to say some interesting things about the myths people build up about themselves and others, about the relationship between madness and genius, and the nature of fame. Whats not to like?