A great many weird and wonderful fashions and style choices have emerged from the world of pop music over the years, from Mike Score's seagull hair to Lady Gaga's... well, whatever Lady Gaga is wearing this week. In Frank, the bizarre new indie comedy from director Lenny Abrahamson (What Richard Did), Michael Fassbender plays a creative but troubled musician who composes, performs, and lives his entire life from the confines of a giant papier mache head.
It's a head that will be very familiar to anyone who was watching TV in Britain during the eighties. Frank is inspired real-life music and stand-up act Frank Sidebottom, the alter ego of comedian Chris Sievey, and is based on co-writer Jon Ronson's experiences playing the keyboard in Frank's band. The resulting music sounded a little something like this.
Although Ronson has plenty of fascinating anecdotes to share from his time in Frank's band, a new featurette for Frank explains that the film is almost entirely fictionalized. In an interview with The Guardian, Ronson revealed that this decision was partially made because of his friendship with Sievey, who had been worried about how his own personality might come across in the film. Sievey (and Frank) sadly passed away in 2010, but by that time Ronson and his fellow writer, Peter Straughn (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) had already decided to write the film as, "a fable instead of a biopic – a tribute to people like Frank who were just too fantastically strange to make it in the mainstream."
Domhnall Gleeson (About Time, Star Wars: Episode VII) plays Jon: a new member of Frank's band (The Soronprfbs) who has plenty of ambition but unfortunately no talent. The other band members are manager Don (Scoot McNairy), bass player Baraque (Francois Civil), percussionist Nana (Carla Azar) and the unsmiling theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal). It's a very different role for Fassbender, who's usually seen playing more somber characters, but in the featurette Ronson explains that Frank definitely has an edge of melancholia to it.
Frank received glowing reviews after its festival run, with The Playlist describing it as "sublime" and "strikingly original," and Variety praising it as "profoundly moving" and "remarkably accessible." If you can track down a screening this summer, Frank looks like a must-see indie movie to break up the Hollywood blockbuster season.
Frank is out on limited US release starting August 22nd, 2014.