Frank – How to describe Frank?
“Misfire of the century” would be one way to describe Frank.
In fact, Frank probably breaks my record for the lowest expectations I’ve ever had for a film. That said, after Arnie’s films of late, I wasn’t expecting a great deal from Sabotage, but it turned out to be a great two hours of entertainment. Obviously, this is no action-fest but that’s not the point of the comparison.
That’s because I was a huge fan of Frank Sidebottom, the bizarre and incredible creation of the genius that was Chris Sievey, who also us brought us The Freshies - I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Check-out Desk , which also had a non-product placement version by changing the words in the title to “a Certain Manchester Megastore Check-Out Desk”, as well as ZX Spectrum game The Biz.
My one regret regarding this great man is that I never went to see him live – one of those things that you’re constantly putting off – since Sievey passed away in 2010. However, I have heard great tales from his gigs, such as the time someone bought him a pint afterwards, as a thankyou, expecting him to take off his head to sup the golden nectar within. Instead, Frank simply brought the pint glass up to his ‘mouth’, the majority of it gushed all down his front, and with that, he was off. No doubt, he also said, “Thankyou!”
I still have great memories of buying his musical works, however, including a 7″ shaped picture disc of The Sci-Fi EP with the lead track Space is Ace, featuring Frank and Little Frank as, respectively, Batbottom and Bobbins, plus his legendary double LP, “5/9/88”, so-called because it was released on September 5th 1988. Throughout his career, he had many memorable tunes including Guess Who’s Been On Match Of The Day, The Robbins Aren’t Bobbins, and even a cover version of The Beatles’ Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite.
Unfortunately, the music in this film has nothing to do with any of Frank’s real output. Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) inadvertently joins the Soronprfbs after their keyboard player tries to drown himself in the sea, playing for them at that evening’s gig, then they head off to Vetno, Ireland to record an album and practically turn it into a commune where no-one else can enter and they’re separated from everyone else for as long as it’ll take to record the album. Just like the real Frank never did.
I wanted to watch this, just to see how it would turn out, and I know it’s Jon Ronson‘s fictionalised version of events, which in this film is set in the present, rather than when he was first working with Chris Sievey but now having seen the finished product, I do feel he must have written this for a bet, not least for the fact that Frank speaks with an American accent, provided by Michael Fassbender who is also inside the head, and seeing the band go to perform at SXSW in Austin, Texas, as they’ve amassed a huge following of… just over 20,000 hits on Youtube.
Everything about this film is terrible. It’s like a bad joke that someone’s playing on real fans and it redefines the word “travesty”. I can’t describe any worse without swearing profusely.
Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the film, plus the presentation and extras.
Apparently, at some point we’ll be getting Being Frank, a true documentary about him. Hopefully, this will also showcase his wonderful Channel M show, “Frank Sidebottom’s Proper Telly Show in B&W (with repeats in colour)” – where the first-run episodes really did run in black and white! It ran for two series from the Urbis building in Manchester. A third series was sort-of planned, but sadly Chris’ death meant it never happened.
Unfortunately, I can’t even award 1/10 for a sultry Maggie Gyllenhaal as psychotic band-mate Clara, nor Scoot McNairy who was great in Killing Them Softly, alongside Brad Pitt.
I may be able to stretch to 0.5 for Michael Fassbender singing “I Love You All”. Okay, so it had nothing to do with Mr Sidebottom, but the actor does have some decent vocals and it stuck in my head all the following day. You can see a live video of the band below, or listen to the studio version here . I said “may”, but then again, maybe not.
Oh, and during the credits, it says the film is dedicted to Chris Sievey, “whose outsider spirit and big fake head inspired this film”. No doubt, he’s now spinning in his grave so fast he could out-power the National Grid!
And finally, some thoughts on the film which I’ll hide behind a spoiler warning, so don’t read this next bit unless you’ve seen the film:
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and has no defects on the print, bringing Ireland and Texas to life very well.
And that audio comes in DTS HD 5.1 option. It’s not a special FX film, obviously, but the dialogue and music comes across crystal clear.
The extras on this disc are as follows – most of which are in HD, too. Sadly, none are chaptered:
- Behind The Scenes (13:13): Clips from the film mixed with chat from the cast and crew, including Gleeson, Fassbender, Gyllenhaal and the director.
Not once is there any mention or footage of the real Frank Sidebottom. It’s as if they’ve just ignored the fact he ever existed!
- Sound promo (9:54): Another making-of, looking* at the tunes made for the film.
(*or rather hearing – see what I did there? eh? eh? Is this thing on?)
- Deleted Scenes (11:12): Three of them here: One featuring mostly Jon on a sort-of acid trip in order to seek inspiration for writing music, one with Frank and the band recording a track, with him acting as if he’s the new Jim Morrison, and a brief inconsequential one.
- Trailer (1:58): In its 2.35:1 theatrical ratio.
- Audio commentaries: one with Domhnall Gleeson, director Lenny Abrahamson and composer Stephen Rennicks and one from screenwriters Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan.
The menu features clips of the film set to a snatch of Ginger Crouton, by The Soronprfbs & Stephen Rennicks, the first track you hear during the film.
Subtitles are in English only and when it comes to the chaptering, I feel one should come every five minutes on average. Curzon, like many other distributors, go for a low 12 however long the film. I would like them to increase this number.
Running time: 98 minutes
Released: September 15th 2014
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Producer: Kevin Loader
Screenplay: Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan
Music: Jeremy Sams
Jon Burroughs: Domhnall Gleeson
Frank: Michael Fassbender
Don: Scoot McNairy
Clara: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Baraque: François Civil
Nana: Carla Azar
Lucas: Shane O’Brien
Jon’s Mother: Moira Brooker
Jon’s Father: Paul Butterworth
Simone: Hayley Derryberry
Alice: Lauren Poole
Hipster Girl: Jordan Aurora Aquino
German Mother: Rosalind Adler
German Father: Niall Glennon
German Child: Torsten Brescanu
Frank’s Mom: Tess Harper
Frank’s Dad: Bruce McIntosh
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.
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