I happened to see the trailer for a movie I had never heard of, called Frank, at 8:45AM this Saturday morning. Within five minutes of seeing the preview, I found that the Angelika Theater at Mockingbird Station was the only place in Dallas showing this wonderfully bizarre looking movie, and by 10:20AM, I was sitting in a dark room with about twelve other people, waiting to see just what this giant paper-mache head had in store for us.
Maybe I should step back to explain that last part. Frank revolves around an avant-garde musician names Frank, who is never seen without an oversized paper-mache mask on. The trailer promised quirky indie escapism, possibly some decent music, and some references to SXSW – ahhh, there is such beauty in under-promising and over-delivering.
For a brief moment, it feels like Frank will be little more than a stylized fictional Behind The Music type of movie because the central narrative is observed and reported from the viewpoint of an involved outsider, the new guy in the band. The outsider point of view is a perfect choice, however, because the audience then has the same questions as the narrator so we’re all in it together. Is the end product of music/art as important as the process of creating it or who you create it with? Frank captures the ambition and compulsion of creating art and very harshly slaps away any generalizations of how or why an artist is the way he is. The paper-mache head isn’t a gimmick for the movie or the music.
On the topic of music, Frank and his band The Soronprfbs, are easily ranked in the top five fictional bands – The Wonders(That Thing You Do), Stillwater(Almost Famous), Eddie & The Cruisers(Eddie & The Crusiers), Wylde Ratttz(Velvet Goldmine), and The Soronprfbs(Frank). The music falls somewhere between The Flaming Lips, Jim Morrison, and an extremely catchy coffee shop rambler.
The band is absolutely mesmerizing every single second they are on the screen and much of that credit has to go to Michael Fassbender. Because we can’t see his face, every bit of emotion must be poured out elsewhere. Fassbender delivers an extremely physical performance. From the combination of his hands and voice, to the way he shuffles when uncomfortable, to the way he loses control when he sings, the small crowd that happens to see Frank this year will be seeing one of the best performances of 2014.
It has been almost two days since I saw Frank and I still can’t get it out of my mind. Maybe it’s the music or maybe it’s the acting but I think the bigger reason is that it asks the questions I thought only I had. How does someone create something both abstract and powerful? What part of my brain should I be tapping into? Why can’t I? Frank is a photograph of the special brand of artistic jealousy that wants to be or at least be part of something bigger and better than ourselves, all while realizing the privilege of simply getting to be witness to that greatness.