The lead singer of a band, Frank, is the tormented genius with a cosmic disposition, almost by way of Jim Morrison. Almost. They record wild sounds, play on exotic instruments, and put together some rather trippy tracks, all with a militant and aggressively genuine sincerity. The inspiring Frank is content playing in front of small or even non-existent crowds, happy to just be putting his noise out into the ether. Still, there might be room for expansion under that head of his. Both heads, I mean.
Frank follows this band through the starry eyes of John, a wannabe songwriter, who is (aggravating to him) only best at taking orders and not in creating his own tunes. Through an attempted suicide by a former member, he lucks out and joins up on a retreat to create a new album. Here, he blogs and documents the process, gaining followers and momentum that the band is unprepared for – but that he is dying to receive.
Twisting the standard tale of a band that goes from noble beginnings to the selfish falling from grace, Frank expresses the emotional and mental toll, manifested physically, that being in such a group – or what it takes to bring a group like this together – can take on a person. This is most obviously and even brilliantly done through Michael Fassbender’s Frank. See, throughout the film, Frank wears a paper mache head over his real one, and is adamant about never taking it off. It’s speculated that he may be disfigured, but mental illness seems to be the more correct answer. Which came first, the head or the illness? The illness or the band? Does it matter? Fassbender brings out such rich pathos from beneath such an absurd costume. It’s hilarious witnessing him have a nervous breakdown when he learns of the fans his group has developed, but only because of what he’s wearing and the sound of his voice coming out of that object. We can only watch helplessly as Frank squirms in a crowded room, trying to put a smile on his mildly expressive facade. It’s a shame, knowing how calm and at peace he is when rocking out. Without that human helmet, it’s all really pretty sad. Come to think of it, it’s actually a sad movie as a whole. Tragic, even. Suicide, Viking funerals, poverty, depression, anxiety, failure to achieve
creative goals – it’s all there. Masked by a fake head.
The inclusion of John into the band acts more as an intrusion, one that is both unwanted and necessary for Frank and his bandmates to evolve together. Poor John, though. He, like them, just wants to make music. In the end, he’s just a tool. Much like that damn fake head.
– Bill Arceneaux
Frank plays at The Manship Theatre on September 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th, and in New Orleans at The Zeitgeist Multi Disciplinary Center starting September 5th.
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