In Lenny Abrahamson & Jon Ronson’s new film Frank, the ghost of the late Chris Sievey aka absurdist comedian/musician Frank Sidebottom is present throughout. Inspired by Ronson’s period as a keyboardist in Sidebottoms touring band in the late 1980’s, it is a tribute to the Timperley legends adventurous, absurdist spirit, if not an actual biography per se.
The crux of the story is the dynamic between Domhnall Gleesons Jon, keyboardist and aspiring pop star and the eponymous Frank, the enigmatic and possibly damaged frontman of the obscurely titled art rock outfit Soronprfbs as portrayed by the versatile Michael Fassbender.
How Abrahamson sidesteps what would be an obvious conceit – two initially polar opposites in personality and outlook clashing – is one of the films many surprises and pleasures as something far more subtle, complex and moving is revealed. both Jon and Franks turn out to share a deeper, more universal kinship; they are both outsiders in a cruel universe but they how each choose to deal with lies much odd, charming comic moments, pathos and fascination,
Reflected with the character of Frank are allusions to key influential outsider figures in the musical sphere – Frank Sidebottom aside – that one imagines influenced the screenwriters Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan with echoes of Syd Barrett, Captain Beefheart, The Residents, Can, John Cooper Clarke, Mark E.Smith & The Fall and most poignantly of all Daniel Johnston, resonating firmly throughout.
Illuminating the weird alchemy of creating music on the margins, Frank rejoices in the healing powers of expression, the very real therapeutic benefit of art; a place for those who truly feel outside what is deemed normal to dwell and play in whether we are ten years old or a hundred and ten years old.
Frank Sidebottom – Space is Ace
Daniel Johnston – Some Things Last A Long Time
The Residents – The Commercial Album
Syd Barrett – Baby Lemonade
Captain Beefheart – Dachau Blues
The Fall – Kurious Oranj
John Cooper Clarke – Twat